John Charles lacked home recognition, says Ian Rush

John Charles
John Charles scored scored 93 goals in 155 games for Juventus

Wales legend John Charles never had the recognition or adulation he deserved at home, according to Ian Rush.

Charles, who died in February 2004 is revered at Italian club Juventus, who he joined in 1957 for a fee of £65,000.

He was the first British player to move abroad for what was a record fee.

"I would have liked to have seen Wales treat John Charles better when he was alive," former Wales striker Rush said ahead of Juve playing in the Champions League final in Cardiff on 3 June.

Liverpool great Rush, who also played for Juve during his career, says Charles is held in higher regard in Italy - especially in Juve's Turin heartland.

"John Charles was brought up every time I spoke there... for him to be voted the best foreign player in Italy - and that includes people like Diego Maradona and Michel Platini - just goes to show how much he's held in awe," Rush, 55, said.

"I think he was treated better in Italy than he was in Wales and that's disappointing."

Swansea-born Charles could play both up front and in defence, and was affectionately known as "Il Buon Gigante", the gentle giant, as incredibly he was never sent off or even booked during his career.

Recognition at home did increase towards the end of Charles' life and he was inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and was awarded the CBE in 2001, while the same year he became the first non-Italian player to be inducted into the Azzuri Football Hall of Fame.

John Charles
John Charles is revered by both Welsh and Italian football fans

In October 2002 when Wales faced Italy in a Euro Championships qualifying match, Charles was invited to lead the teams out at a packed Millennium Stadium - to the adulation of both sets of fans.

"When Wales played Italy I saw John Charles walk out onto that pitch and he was crying... that was the only time when he was treated as a god," Rush added.

"In Italy he's a god. He'd get that in Italy every single time he went there."

Charles played 155 games for Juventus during his four-year spell from 1958-62, scoring 93 goals in the process and helping The Old Lady to three Serie A championship titles and two Italian Cup triumphs.

John Charles
John Charles scored 15 goals in 38 appearances for Wales

Dream final for Rush

Juventus will play in Cardiff next Saturday when they face Real Madrid in the Champions League final and Rush is relishing the match.

"I did want a Juventus and Real Madrid final," Rush said.

"Juventus obviously because I played for them and Real Madrid so that Wales supporters can see Gareth Bale.

"It's great to have two fantastic teams in the final, but for Wales as a nation and Cardiff as a city it's perfect timing to put them on the map.

"I travel the world a lot and amazingly some people think Cardiff is in England.

"By the time they leave [the final] they'll know Cardiff is in Wales and that's what it's all about.

"It's about the hospitality, about everything both on the pitch and off. It's a fantastic stadium, an incredible atmosphere especially with the roof closed.

"I'm really proud to be Welsh and we want the people and the stadium to make Wales proud as well."

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