Pseuds regulars offer their take on the best five British footballers of the last 50 years
There's a problem when trying to pick the five best British players. Even when limiting it to the last 50 years. Even after taking out the five "best" another list has provided.
It's a simple problem, there are too many "greats" to include.
I famously once tried to list the five greatest players ever. I started with seven players and argued my way down to 11.
There are simply too many that demand inclusion – was George Best better than Jimmy Johnstone? And how would you compare either with later players?
Sometimes you just have to look overseas for inspiration – and if you are doing that then there is only one player that HAS to be included in a list of best Britons.
John Charles - 'Il Buon Gigante'.
Few of us have seen him play in his pomp – he signed for Juventus in 1958 – but those that did are unequivocal.
In the cathedral of cattanacio that was Italian football in the 1950s and early 1960s Charles scored 93 times in 155 games. He led Wales to their only appearance at a World Cup in 1958 and was absent with injury when a young lad named Pele scored the only goal in a 1-0 quarter-final defeat – they beat Hungary to get there.
Charles started life as a central defender – a position he played in for almost his entire international career even after moving to striker as a club player. In his first season as a forward he scored 27 goals in 30 matches. The next season he set the current record for goals in a season by a Leeds United player at 42 from 39 games. Leeds were promoted on the back of this and in his first season in the top flight he scored 38 goals. A move to Turin and 28 goals followed the next year.
But the bare facts do not convey the esteem in which he is held.
In his first season he was voted Serie A player of the year and the most valuable player in Europe – ahead of Puskas and Di Stefano. It wasn't the only time he beat legends to trophies.
In 1997 Juventus fans rated him higher than Michael Laudrup (who was voted Spain's greatest-ever player) Andreas Möller, and Michel Platini as Juventus' greatest-ever foreign player. In 2001 he was inducted to Italian football's hall of fame – the first foreigner to be so honoured, beating Van Basten, Gullit, Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, and even Ian Rush to the honour. In 2004, Wales nominated him as their finest player in the last 50 years.
Quite simply, Charles was world class and a player for the ages – as one friend said after his death in 2004: "John lacked the one gift needed to get by in a world of wolves - cynicism
Quotes on Charles from people who saw him play:
Bobby Robson: "Incomparable."
Jimmy Greaves: "If I were picking my all-time great British team, or even a world eleven, John Charles would be in it."
Danny Blanchflower: "Everything he does is automatic. When he moves into position for a goal chance it is instinctive. My feet do not do my thinking for me as they do for a player like John Charles. That is why I can never be as great a footballer as he."
Jack Charlton: "A team unto himself - quick, he was a very, very strong runner and he was the greatest header of the ball I ever saw. His power in the air was phenomenal."
Dennis Law: "The best centre-half in Europe. Mind you, when he plays up front, he's one of the best three centre-forwards I've ever seen play the game."
Bruno Garzena, Juventus teammate: "He wasn't a normal footballer; he was an extraordinary one. Even now, he's still considered a god in Turin"
Pele: "Unfortunately for Wales, the great John Charles was absent because of injury. He was the one we really feared."
Tom Holley, Leeds teammate: "Nat Lofthouse was asked who was the best centre-half he had played against and without hesitation named John Charles. The same week Billy Wright was asked who was the greatest centre-forward he had faced, and he too answered 'John Charles'."