Welcome to part five and the finale of the Summer Preseason Battle Preview series. Already we’ve spoken about the chances of Antonee Robinson, Matt Miazga, Josh Sargent and Keaton Parks with their respective clubs. This time we’ll look to Ligue 1 where a young American is trying to make it at one of the mega clubs of Europe - Timothy Weah.
The last four months have been a whirlwind for the 18-year-old. Coming off a good performance at the U-17 World Cup, Weah returned to Paris with his sights set on making his mark. An opportunity presented itself in early March as Paris St. Germain faced injury problems and Champions League elimination in the face. Head coach Unai Emery rotated the squad heavily ahead of PSG’s second leg with eventual champions Real Madrid. On March 3rd, Weah made his first team PSG debut when he came off the bench just 9 days after his 18th birthday. A week later, Weah made a second appearance. With Neymar out with a broken foot and the Ligue 1 title clinched, Weah went on to make the matchday squad regularly although he didn’t see the field again until the final game of the year when he made his first start. While Weah failed to score or record an assist in his three PSG outings last season, he did display that he can be a dangerous player in the attack by making well-disguised runs and being a nuisance in the press. He also has some excellent passing ability as well. He’s not a great 1v1 player. He’s best when combining and playing quick one-twos with his teammates to get him into space to cause danger. His finishing definitely needs to improve, but the same thing could be said about a large majority of US attacking players. His emergence with the French club has coincided with his emergence with the USMNT. He appeared three times in the last four friendlies and found the back of the net against Bolivia.
But the life a footballer is not easy. While he showed enough in training to convince Emery to give him an opportunity last season, he will now have to prove himself to the new man in charge. Thomas Tuchel was hired to replace Emery and will have his sights set on a deep run in Europe’s biggest club competition. With PSG being spread out over several competitions, Tuchel will need to rotate his squad to keep bodies fresh. This is where Weah should hope that he can prove enough this summer. If he can improve and show that he can be a good player to have in the rotation, Tuchel will repay him with bench appearances and occasional starts. Fortunately Tuchel has a reputation for doing so as is evidenced by Christian Pulisic’s rise at Borussia Dortmund.
Obviously this is all much easier said than done. PSG possess an embarrassment of riches in the attacking roles. While Weah has the versatility to play multiple attacking positions, it will be highly difficult to unseat the options in front of him on the depth chart. Neymar is one of the best players in the world and PSG paid the highest price ever paid for a player for him to come there last summer. Even though rumors about uncertainty regarding his future at the club are as common as the sun rising, when he’s healthy and available he’s a no-brainer starter on the left wing. On the opposite wing is the 19-year-old phenom Kylian Mbappe. He burst onto the scene a couple years ago with AS Monaco and is one of the brightest young talents in world football. If you don’t believe me, go ask Argentina about how good he is. He ripped them apart to the tune of two goals, 7 dribbles won and a 50-yard run before drawing a penalty that you will see on highlights for years to come. They also have Angel Di Maria who scored this beauty on Saturday in the seven goal thriller against France.
Up top, they have Uruguayan superstar Edinson Cavani. He scored a brace in the World Cup knockout round win over Portugal on Saturday. He also scored 40 goals in all competitions last season. Cavani is now 31 years old so no longer young, but he still has plenty in the tank. Further down the depth chart the talent is still apparent. Javier Pastore is gone, but Julian Draxler is still in the team. He played for Germany at the World Cup. Goncalo Guedes comes off a loan to Valencia in La Liga where he made 40 appearances, scoring six times and delivering eleven assists. Christopher Nkunku made 14 appearances for PSG after the turn of the year and looked very good in most of them. He can also play in midfield as well as the wing. appearances in all competitions. Jese Rodríguez returns from his loan to Stoke City where he struggled and only appeared 14 times in all competitions. Jonathan Ikone returns from a loan at Ligue 1’s Montpellier where he appeared 23 times in all competitions. While it’s unlikely that all those players will still be in the team when the summer transfer window concludes, that should go to show how much talent PSG has in the attacking roles. Weah will have a very difficult road ahead in his fight for a regular first team spot. It’s also relatively likely that Weah will be loaned out to gain some first team experience.
One thing Weah has going for him is confidence. He has his sights set at the highest possible level, stating recently that he wants to be the first American to win the Ballon d’Or, the award handed out to the world’s best player. He said:
I like that attitude, especially the part about him putting in the work to get there. Whether he reaches that level or not, it’s important for young players to realize how hard they will have to fight to improve to reach the heights of their potential. Weah doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who will shy away from that. He may still be raw, but the tools are there for him to be an excellent professional. Let’s hope he keeps working hard to become that kind of player.
Head to the comments section to discuss what you think about Weah’s first team chances next season at PSG or if you think he should look for a loan for experience. Here’s a nice highlight reel of Weah:
Tim Weah - Paris Saint-Germain— USMNT (@USMNTvideos) June 20, 2018
Weah can play either the wing or the 9. His dribbling and his passing are very good and while he scores a lot, his finishing with PSG and the USMNT was shoddy. Overall, he's a very exciting player and will be a key player. pic.twitter.com/gikbMZHmHy