01.06.2017 13:00 - in: UCL S

      Juventus and Wales: A story of two strikers

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      Juventus’ history with Wales, host nation of the UEFA Champions League final, began as far as back as 1957 with a certain Gentle Giant…

      The champions of Italy and the champions of Spain will come together for the greatest club football prize of them all on Saturday night in Wales, a nation that has played a small but significant part in the histories of both Juventus and Real Madrid.

      Madrid’s Gareth Bale - captain and star player of the national team - will harbor hopes of lifting the trophy in his home city this weekend but Juve’s relationship with Wales goes back as far as the late 1950s.

      Here are the stories of two Welshmen, both of whom broke the British transfer record to join Juventus, and their impacts on the Bianconeri club…


      The Gentle Giant: two simple words that go a long way to telling the unforgettable story of John William Charles’ time with Juventus.

      Born in Swansea in 1931, Charles began his career with Leeds United in the late 1940s. It was there that his reputation as a ruthlessly clinical centre forward – and at times also as a central defender – began to flourish, the Welshman scoring at a rate of more than a goal every two games in 297 appearances for the club. 

      Charles (right) alongside strike partner Omar Sivori

      Juve came calling in August 1957 almost doubling the previous British transfer record to secure the target man’s signature, in a move that would ignite a remarkable period of success for both club and player.

      Often partnered alongside Omar Sivori and Giampiero Boniperti – one of the world’s most formidable forward lines at the time - the Gentle Giant was an instant success in Italy, netting 23 times in his debut season to win the Serie A golden boot. The last player to score so many in their first campaign in black and white? Gonzalo Higuain. 

      It would be just the beginning for Charles: in a five-season spell in Turin, the Welsh international struck 105 times in 181 matches, winning three Scudetto titles and two Coppa Italia trophies, finishing in third place for the Ballon d’Or in 1959.

      Thirty-eight years later, he was voted the Bianconeri’s greatest foreign player of all-time for the club’s centenary in 1997. 

      IAN RUSH

      Just over a quarter of a century later, Ian Rush – Ambassador for the Champions League Final in Cardiff – became Juventus’ second and most recent Welsh import.

      The British transfer record was broken again to sign Rush who, like Charles, came to the north of Italy on the back of a barnstorming spell in the United Kingdom with Liverpool between 1980 and 1986. 

      Rush (first on the left) lines up in Villar Perosa before the start of the 1997/98 season

      The Saint Asaph-native turned out 40 times for the Old Lady in his single season at the Stadio Comunale, scoring 13 goals.

      The last of which he ensured he returned to England as somewhat of a cult hero, a superb left-footed shot on the turn in the 88th minute to win the 1988 Derby della Mole.

      A matter of weeks later, Rush was scoring the decisive penalty kick in the UEFA cup play-offs against the same opposition before returning to Liverpool.


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