Timothy Weah has signed a loan deal with Celtic until the end of the season. Joel Sked looks at Brendan Rodgers’ new recruit.
“In world football the name ‘Weah’ carries a lot of weight. I’ve known that for a long time,” Weah said speaking last year.
“Every time I pull on a jersey I know people are going to notice the name on the back, no matter was name’s on the front. It is something which will always follow me.”
“But now it is time for me to lay my own path.”
His path has led him to Celtic Park where, once again, there will be those who will want to ask him about his dad.
Father to Tim is one of the all-time great African players: George Weah. The Liberian forward was a huge hit at Monaco, PSG and AC Milan, winning a number of trophies in France before helping Milan to two Serie A titles.
It was in Italy he was named the first African winner of the Ballon d’Or in 1995 and scored one of the most famous individual goals during Serie A’s halcyon days in the mid-90s on British TV.
In his native Liberia was a hugely popular figure thanks to his football ability. He entered politics and was sworn in as the country’s president a year ago.
Yet, it isn’t his dad who has been Tim’s biggest influence.
Weah referred to his father as a “chill parent” who would offer “pointers” but he would largely take a back seat.
It was his mother Clar who proved to be the biggest inspiration.
He said: “She’s had a huge impact on where I’m at now,” Weah said. “She taught me the basics. She pushed me. She was my first coach, intramural coach when I was in Florida. That’s where I really started playing.”
Next generation of US stars
The 18-year-old is one of the next generation of football stars in America, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to win a cap for the US men’s team. He came on as a late sub in a 1-0 win over Paraguay a little over a month after his 18th birthday.
In May he made his first international start against Bolivia and scored his first goal for his country - the fourth youngest player to do so.
USA are currently in a transition having missed out on the 2018 World Cup with Weah one of the players earmarked to take the country to the tournament in Qatar in 2022, having been part of a promising U17 side in 2017.
He caught the eye with an impressive hat-trick against Paraguay at the U17 World Cup in India. One of the goals scored went viral it was that good.
Since his debut last year he has already won eight senior caps.
Why the US?
Weah had the option of Liberia, France and Jamaica, where his mother is from. Yet he was born in the US and for him the choice was straightforward.
“The decision wasn’t hard at all,” he told American Soccer Now. “I knew from the start I wanted to play for the United States of America. I am never going to change. This is my country and I love it here. They treat me well here and I love my teammates. “
Work in progress
The biggest teams in Europe see Celtic, under Brendan Rodgers, as the perfect environment for their promising talent; a huge club with an incredible amount of pressure and demand to win, one which features regularly in Europe and has an excellent training ground manager.
It is easy to understand why Parkhead is an appealing destination for young players. The club could open a thick binder of individuals who have proven themselves in the East End of Glasgow before going onto even bigger and better things.
PSG’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel has noted the players key attributes, namely “an outstanding combination of endurance and speed”.
But also the areas which require improvement.
“He will have to understand the team, the rhythm, the play, when to attack, when to use his speed, when to wait and not go to early and be caught offside,” he said (via Goal.com). “But the basics are there at a very high level.”
Weah will provide Celtic with a real threat in behind the opposition defence, stretching the game and opening space for the creative midfielders.
He also moves laterally, collecting possession in wider areas and running at defences. The forward also demonstrated a wonderful leap, heading the winner for PSG against Celtic in the Uefa Youth League in 2017.
Weha is a player who will excite and Rodgers knows the player he is getting.
He told Celtic View: “He has a long career ahead of him but he has those natural attributes in terms of his pace and technique. He’s hungry too.”
“He has really good qualities technically, and tactically is always improving his game. Physically he’s very good, very fast and is a strong player. He’ll add competition to the squad.”
Weah featured in PSG’s first three games this season, amassing 143 minutes and netting twice.
He started and finished the 4-0 rout of Monaco in the Trophee des Champions, sweeping in the third goal before also hitting the third goal in a 3-0 defeat of Caen in the opening game of the Ligue 1 season, closing the goalkeeper down to earn himself the strike.
The 18-year-old has scored six goals in 14 appearances for the US U17 side, netting once for the men’s team in eight appearances and hitting four in 11 for PSG in the Uefa Youth League. Not mad for a player who has been played on the left wing in a number of games.
Weah’s deal with Celtic lasts until the end of the season when he will return to PSG having fallen down the pecking order in the French capital.
Prior to completing the loan deal, the player penned a one-year contract extension which will keep him as a PSG player until 2021. According to ESPN, if Weah does well with Celtic he will stay with the club for a further season.
However, if he struggles he may be sent out on loan to another Ligue 1 side in the summer.