Tears as Juventus pay respects to a legend

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The Independent Football

Juventus players, directors and fans paid tribute to their former striker John Charles before yesterday's Serie A match against Bologna at the Stadio Dell'Ara.

Players from both teams stood around the centre-circle and fans applauded - in Italy applause rather than silence is the way to commemorate death - before the match kicked off. Juventus players wore black armbands, and some club directors were seen wiping their eyes in the stands the day after the former Welsh international striker died at the age of 72.

Charles was known as the Gentle Giant during a highly successful five-year stint with the Turin club.

Afterwards, the Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero said: "I received this news with great sorrow, both as a player and as a Juventus fan. Every time that he came to visit our team, he showed us great affection and had a contagious cheerfulness." The Juventus coach, Marcello Lippi, added: "A really great person has left us. Whenever he spoke of Juventus, of its past or of its present, his eyes twinkled."

The Wales manager, Mark Hughes, added his personal tribute to Charles yesterday. He said: "Whenever you were in his company he made you feel very welcome. He had great presence. You were always struck by his humility whenever you were in his company.

"What struck me - and there is very little television footage of him in his prime - is that when you saw him you realised he was a modern-day player in a different era.

"There is always the debate on whether the past players could perform in the modern game, but there would have been no argument that big John could have done. He is the greatest player ever to wear the Welsh shirt; he will be sorely missed."

Terry Medwin, a team-mate of Charles's in the World Cup finals of 1958 when Wales lost in the quarter-finals to Brazil, added: "I wouldn't just say he was the greatest player in the Welsh side - he was probably one of the greatest players in the world at that time, even though Pele was around."

His home town of Swansea is planning a statue in his honour, and there have been suggestions that Swansea City's new ground could be named after him. Leeds, meanwhile, are believed to be considering renaming the main West Stand at Elland Road after the man they signed in 1949 and sold to Juventus for £65,000 in 1957.

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