Cliff Jones' verdict: Who is Wales' greatest - Gareth Bale or John Charles?

Gareth Bale and John Charles
Gareth Bale has won 66 caps for Wales while John Charles represented his country 38 times.

Former Wales winger Cliff Jones is perhaps, more than anyone, best placed to assess whether John Charles or Gareth Bale is the nation's greatest footballer.

Jones was an international team-mate of his fellow Swansea native Charles, with both playing for Wales at the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden.

And in his role as an ambassador for former club Tottenham Hotspur, Jones saw Bale in action on a regular basis at White Hart Lane before his record breaking move to Real Madrid in 2013.

"It's a tough question," Jones told BBC Wales Sport when asked who is Wales' greatest ever footballer.

"At this moment I've got to edge for Big John because he was a bit more versatile than Gareth.

"Gareth is an attacking player, but John could play centre-half and he could play centre forward.

Cliff Jones
Cliff Jones played for Swansea Town, Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham

"People asked me what his best position was and I would say 'I don't know what his best position is, but he's the best centre-half I've seen and he's the best centre forward I've seen'.

"I suppose that really sums John up."

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

That fee pales into insignificance compared to the £85.3m Real Madrid paid Spurs in September 2013, a world transfer record at the time.

In his four years at the Bernabeu, 27-year-old Bale has won the Champions League three times - the most recent in the 4-1 final win over Juventus in his home city of Cardiff.

For his country, Bale has scored 26 goals in 66 appearances.

He was the team's talisman as they reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016, the country's first appearances at a major tournament since 1958 and the era of Jones and Charles.

John Charles in action for Juventus
John Charles spent five years at Juventus and also had a spell with Roma.

Jones has no doubts that Bale is on his way to becoming one of the greatest players in the game's history alongside Charles.

"Gareth will certainly be thereabouts, there's no doubt about that," Jones added.

"And he's such a terrific, grounded young man and it's great to see him successful.

"I think he would have progressed in the same way at Tottenham, I'm in no doubt about that.

"But at Real Madrid he's possibly had a bit more exposure and he's certainly one of the best players in the world at this moment.

Gareth Bale with the Uefa Champions league trophy
Gareth Bale came on as a substitute in Real Madrid's Champions League final win over Juventus in Cardiff

"He could possibly go on to be better than the great John Charles."

Charles, as Jones points out, was voted Serie A's greatest foreign player during a spell in which he was affectionately known as "Il Buon Gigante", the "Gentle Giant".

And Jones believes Bale can quite rightly be considered the most successful British player to have played in Spain.

"He's one of our best exports. It's not because I'm Welsh, but he's such a terrific player," Jones added.

"He's been absolutely sensational for Real Madrid.

"Gareth is just one brilliant player. He's worked hard, he's listened and the sky's the limit."

Top Stories