The past few weeks have given Paris Saint-Germain fans their first taste of youth academy product Timothy Weah. The American first appeared at the end of the Troyes AC match, and then more recently in the second half of the match against FC Metz. For Weah, the newly 18-year-old son of former Ballon d’Or winner and current President of Liberia George Weah, these first appearances with the team were a chance to showcase his potential. He only played 11 and 19 minutes in the two appearances respectively, but he created scoring opportunities in both matches, making well-timed deep runs that he should be able to finish as he gains more experience. With Neymar Jr. out indefinitely and the Ligue 1 title firmly in PSG’s grasp, it’s a good bet that we’ll see more of him over the rest of the season.
Until the Troyes match, Weah had played a grand total of zero minutes combined with the PSG’s first team and the senior United States national team. This lack of direct competition against top-tier professionals certainly makes him a hard player to analyze, but his performances with the PSG academy teams and the U.S. youth teams have fans hopeful on both sides of the Atlantic. Throughout his young career, Weah has primarily played center-forward but has also seen time on both wings. He has fantastic pace and gets up the pitch very quickly with the ball at his feet. He’s a very able and willing passer, particularly with long balls and crosses, and he also has a very nice dribbling touch, showing remarkable composure in the box for someone his age. He has all the physical tools and skills to find himself a role on the first team in the next season or two.
In the immediate future, his only option would be to come off of an already deep bench. The current front line of Neymar, Edinson Cavani, and Kylian Mbappé are well established at their positions. On a team where players of the caliber of Julian Draxler struggle to find minutes, promising young players like Gonçalo Guedes are loaned out, and Angel Di Maria comes off the bench, time on the pitch is hard to come by. But, after a summer in which the club made two enormous acquisitions, PSG have to be sellers this summer to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations. Draxler seems poised to push for a transfer, and there are already rumors of PSG preparing to sell Guedes to the highest bidder. Di Maria, meanwhile, is 30-years-old and may look to transfer somewhere he can regain a starting role. Any of these potential departures could help Weah find regular minutes on the first team. However, if PSG doesn’t sell any of their frontline players this summer, the best move would be to loan Weah out for a season. He’s at a point in his career where he needs experience in a top league, and if there aren’t enough minutes at PSG, he and the club would be best served if he played elsewhere for a year.
Even if he does find time with PSG’s first team, where would he play? Despite his history as a number 9, the reality is that he’s unlikely to find much time there in Paris. Whenever Cavani departs the French capital the assumption is that Mbappé will move over from the right wing. He already has four appearances and one goal as a center-forward with PSG, and he had 35 appearances at center-forward with AS Monaco last season. Mbappé hasn’t yet looked quite as comfortable leading the attack this season, but it’s safe to say the number 9 position is his whenever Cavani leaves Paris. While this may seem to hurt Weah’s chances of playing regularly for PSG, his skillset is actually well suited to the wing. His willingness and ability to pick out teammates making runs with long passes, particularly from out wide, are best utilized from that position. Also, his extraordinary pace could allow him to exploit aggressive wing-backs in the same way Mbappé has this season.
While Weah may find himself competing against a less robust pool of talent with his national team, there is a lot of uncertainty there. No one has been tapped to replace former coach Bruce Arena, making the future style and formation of the team unclear. However, what can be said with confidence is that the USMNT will be looking to develop its young players. The failure to qualify for this summer’s FIFA World Cup was likely the final run for a generation of American players that includes Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and Jermaine Jones. After a great showing in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Weah should see some time as a frontline player for the senior team in the coming years.
A best-case scenario could see Weah follow a Marcus Rashford-like trajectory. Rashford is now in his second full season at Manchester United, and despite playing for José Mourinho, a manager who normally favors more experienced players, Rashford has managed to become a staple on the first team. He played as a center-forward in his youth career as well but has played more on the wing with Manchester’s first team. Both Rashford and Weah have exceptional pace and are great at timing their runs, and while comparing any unproven young player to a world-class young talent like Rashford is ambitious, Weah does have a similar play style and high-level potential.
Timothy Weah is taking his first steps in what looks to be a long career. The talent and skill he has shown up to this point are that of a potential star in Europe and the United States, but as with any sport, the transition to the highest level of competition is where we truly see what players are made of. It’s too early to know for sure, but between PSG and the USMNT, Weah’s future looks bright.