Over the years, Paris Saint-Germain have been blessed with numerous legendary players, though perhaps none more so than George Weah.
Signed in 1992 from Monaco, the Liberia international striker spent three years at Parc des Princes, where he showcased his freakish power, pace and scoring ability. So good was Weah, that he won the 1995 Ballon d’Or, albeit having played the second half of the year with AC Milan. He remains the only African player to have ever claimed the prize.
Twenty-three years on, much has changed. Weah is now the president of Liberia, having moved into politics, but the family connection with PSG goes on after his son, Timothy, made his debut for the first team during Saturday’s 2-0 win over Troyes.
Weah Jr might only have played 12 minutes, replacing Giovani Lo Celso soon after another youth product, Christopher Nkunku had got PSG’s second, yet no academy player in world football would have been studied as closely as the young USA-born forward.
He nearly made it a debut to remember, too, but in-form Troyes goalkeeper Erwin Zelazny blocked from him when he got his sole clear sight of goal.
But while all the focus is upon the player’s father, it was actually his mother, Clar, who first taught him the game. “She knows a lot because she watched my dad,” Timothy said as a 15-year-old
Weah’s presence in the PSG side is no publicity stunt, and indeed he has a professional contract with the club that runs to 2020. He has been carving out his name with the youth teams since arriving in 2014, impressing particularly in the UEFA Youth League, in which he scored four times and grabbed one further assist in 11 appearances.
“My first game went very well,” he said after his senior debut. “My team-mates told me to be quiet and not to put pressure on myself. I hope to do even more in the future and start scoring goals. My father did great things here and it makes me want to do the same.”
Head coach Unai Emery, meanwhile, admitted that injuries to Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, plus the prospect of resting Edinson Cavani ahead of the Real Madrid tie, were required to open the door for the 18-year-old.
“He’s a very young player who works very well in the middle,” he said. “We had a lot of forwards who could not play so it was a chance for him. He got 15 minutes and did well.”
“I didn’t want to stay in America because the level in Europe is much higher,” he told Les Titis Du PSG in 2016, fresh from making his debut by scoring a hat-trick for the Under-17 side. “I chose PSG because it’s the biggest club in France and for a young guy like me a chance I couldn’t turn down.”
Having moved to his father’s former club, the prospect of having that shadow cast over him on a persistent basis is not something that concerns him.
“It’s normal to talk about me in the press because my father was a great PSG player,” he said. “It pushes me to work even harder because people expect a lot from me. I don’t fear that my team-mates might be jealous. I don’t have a big head, I’m doing everything to blend into the team.”
Weah has now taken his first significant footsteps towards the top. Now his task must be to pin down a more regular place in Emery’s matchday squad, which will eventually mean a partnership with childhood hero Neymar, whom he named in his All-Time XI as a 17-year-old, with the Brazilian paired with the great George in attack.
If he can become half the player his father was, he will be an awesome force.