At 19 years old, it’s not yet to the point of his career when Timothy Weah (£1.12) faces make-or-break decisions, yet the young USA international has shown himself to be a player who will not shy away from making big calls.
A year ago, having been successfully given pre-season exposure by Paris Saint-Germain, he gambled by remaining with the Ligue 1 champions. Having not been given the game time that many in the capital felt he merited, he has elected to move on after an unsuccessful loan spell in Scotland with Celtic.
By moving to Lille for a reported €10 million, plus a sizeable portion of any profit the northern side make on him, the forward could not have made a better decision.
Welcome Timothy Weah!@LOSC_EN have reached an agreement with @PSG_English for the services of the #USMNT international forward, who arrives at the @StadePM on a five-year deal! pic.twitter.com/U5UA5kSb8I
— LOSC Lille EN (@LOSC_EN) June 29, 2019
LOSC’s explosion last year to second in Ligue 1, granting them direct entry into the Champions League this season, albeit as bottom seeds in the group stage, may have been led from the dugout by head coach Christophe Galtier, but it was spearheaded from the boardroom by sporting director Luis Campos.
The man who signed the bulk of Monaco’s spectacular title-winning squad of the 2016-17 campaign was whisked north by Lille owner Gerard Lopez and has worked his magic at Stade Pierre Mauroy.
LOSC, in particular, have had much success picking off the low-hanging fruit of PSG academy stars dissatisfied with their prospects in the capital. Mike Maignan, perhaps France’s standout goalkeeper last season, the rapidly improving Jonathan Ikone (£1.20) and midfielder Boubakary Soumare (£0.82), who has the potential to be one of Ligue 1’s breakout stars this coming season, are among those to precede Weah in making the move – all have been successful.
With Nicolas Pepe destined to leave the club over the coming weeks – though where to remains something of a mystery – and a heavy burden of fixtures due to the club’s European commitments, Weah’s frustration on the bench is set to be a thing of the past.
Given just three appearances totaling 143 minutes for PSG last season, he scored two goals. Given Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (£0.29) got only three in over 30 outings tallying 1,265, his exasperation was justified, even if the Cameroon international does play the centre-forward role in a rather different way.
While Weah was used primarily centrally in Paris, Galtier has hinted he could be handed more time in a different role at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in the face of competition from Loic Remy (£0.25), one of the few experienced players in Lille’s side, and the exciting Rafael Leao (£1.50).
“We see Tim more as a wide player, but he can also play as a No.9,” the coach said as the players reconvened for pre-season training last week.
Arguably the greatest challenge that Weah will face is the responsibility in having a role to replace Pepe, a man who scored 22 league goals and added another 11 assists – statistics matched Europewide only by a select handful of players of the standard of Lionel Messi (£4.82) and Kylian Mbappe (£5.90).
He cannot, of course, be expected to have such a dramatic impact on the team, but Lille are working to supplement their squad, with Galtier, who has lost key midfielder Thiago Mendes (£0.69) and left-back Youssouf Kone to Lyon, confident deals will get done before the season begins in a month’s time.
“There are just difficult negotiations, even more so when you have a great European competition to play,” he said, having also completed a deal to sign Reinildo on a full-time basis after the Belenenses player spent the second half of last season on loan with the club.
Weah is just one piece of Lille’s puzzle, which is a complicated one as it must consider the players’ current ability to meet the club’s expectations but also the potential sell-on value for each individual.
They have reaped much success taking bigger gambles on PSG youths than Weah, who is another young prospect who could pay rich dividends.