Football Former Swansea, Arsenal great Mel Charles dies

Mel Charles, a former defender and striker for Swansea City and Arsenal and part of Wales' 1958 World Cup side, has died at the age of 81.

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Tributes have been paid to former Swansea City and Arsenal great Mel Charles, who has died at the age of 81.

Charles, who played as a defender and a striker, spent seven years with Swansea before joining the Gunners in 1959 for a reported fee of £46,750 - a record for a transfer between two British clubs at the time.

He also earned 31 caps for Wales and was part of the side that reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1958, with Brazil great Pele reportedly describing him as the best defender he faced during the tournament.

"It's a sad, sad loss," Swansea coach Alan Curtis told the club's official website. "Mel was part of a huge sporting family in Swansea. 

"Not only was he highly respected as a footballer, he was a fantastic character who enjoyed life to the full. Everybody loved to be in his company. 

"There is no doubt he will go down as one of Swansea and Wales' greatest players and will now join that great football team in heaven."

A spokesperson for the club added: "We are sorry to hear of the loss of a club great and true gentleman.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this sad time."

The brother of ex-Leeds, Juventus and Roma great John Charles and father of Jeremy Charles, who played for Swansea between 1976 and 1983, Mel also had spells with Cardiff City and Port Vale before retiring in 1972.

He worked a number of jobs following his retirement and published an autobiography in 2009, entitled 'In The Shadow Of A Giant', in reference to his brother.

He is understood to have been in a care home in recent times due to ill health.

Fellow former Wales international Mel Nurse was quoted as telling the South Wales Evening Post: "In the 1958 World Cup he stood out. In those days players didn't ask for transfers. Clubs sold them. They sold him to Arsenal, a top club in the country and Spurs, another top club, were interested. If he had been playing today he would have been worth millions."

"I had a phone call within 10 minutes of his passing. I was gutted. He was a big character. Swansea has lost a legend. Anyone who had anything to do with Mel knew he was a big personality. He will be sorely missed."

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