As one American finds himself in the shadows at Juventus, another USMNT star steps in to take his place, carrying a name on the back of the shirt that carried the world and everything before it for the Rossoneri nearly three decades ago.
Timothy Tarpeh Weah is the son of 1995 Ballon d’Or winner George Weah, the striker whose name went down in legend for AC Milan in the 1990s. The elder Weah remains the only African winner of the best player in the world title, and though his son has grown up with all the expectation the weight of that name carries, he is in his own right a footballer of different talents.
Raised in Brooklyn and capped 29 times for the country of his birth, the 23-year-old is a versatile player who will give Massimiliano Allegri a dimension he is currently lacking down the right wing — searing pace.
Weah has been with LOSC Lille for the last four seasons, scoring eight times with eight assists in a variety of competitions, all while being used as a human Swiss knife, as the graphic below will show.
Now, if there is one thing we know about Allegri is that he loves putting players ‘out of position,’ and what better way to combat that than with a footballer who is capable of lining up in a variety of different spots.
Lille have mostly been in a back four, and in the just concluded 2022-23 season Weah featured as left back or right back a total of 16 times, along with six games pushed a little further forward on the right.
However, it’s his time with the USMNT that is indicative of where he is more effective and how he can help Juventus the most. Weah’s national team debut came when he was a shade over 18 years old and he has featured mostly as a right winger in that time in a 4-3-3 formation.
This season, with injuries wracking his side, Lille manager Paulo Fonseca asked the American to play at wingback and seemingly gave him a new outlet for his attacking intentions. Weah is at his best when asked to get touchline chalk on his boots, beating defenders with the ball at his feet to the byline before playing in a teammate.
With Juan Cuadrado a pale shadow of his former self and looking like he will not renew with Juventus for another season, Allegri again has the kind of player in Weah that can push further forward in a four-man backline, or else install him as a right wingback in the favoured back-three formation of last season.
A word or three of caution, however. Just like how his USMNT teammate McKennie struggled to adapt to the pace and quality of the game in Italy, there will be some growing pains for Weah as well. Slight of build and a shade over 6-foot tall, he is not the physical specimen his father was and will have to learn to handle the physical nature of Serie A defending.
As a forward-oriented player, his relative lack of output in terms of goals and assists will also be concerning, as will the fact that he is still learning the art of defending. By his own admission, he has partly learned the fullback position from watching videos of superstar backs like Marcelo.
While he will remain a threat breaking forward and should inject some much-needed pace into an otherwise lethargic Juventus attack, it is unlikely that he will be a trusted fullback in a back-four any time this season. Weah will have an opportunity to learn from Cuadrado if he somehow stays at Juve, as well as from Mattia De Sciglio, who has two more years on his current contract.
Allegri often talks about the weight of playing for a storied club like Juventus when referring to younger players like Dusan Vlahovic, and no doubt we will hear the same cliches trotted out when Weah struggles for the Bianconeri. He’s not wrong though, and it is a big step up for a player that did not necessarily nail down a starting spot for a Lille side that finished 4th, 1st, 10th and 5th in his four seasons there.
Weah is a product of both the New York Red Bulls youth academy and the Paris Saint-Germain academy but failed to make his mark at PSG as a striker, and after a short loan spell at Celtic in Scotland, made his way to Lille where he has been much more successful.
He might not quite hit the ground running for the Bianconeri, but if he can start matching the output of his counterpart on the opposite flank, Filip Kostic, then Juventus will have two players who can cause defences to backpedal, allowing for quicker transitions as well as stretching the opposition which should give the undoubtedly talented players at Juve more time and space to work their magic.
If McKennie does end up staying in Turin for the upcoming season, then that will give Weah a familiar reference point in a new city even though he’ll be playing in a country that should be very familiar to him.
Rebuilding on a budget is never an easy task, but at just €12 million the versatile USMNT player could be a discount solution to a number of problems that Allegri has during this summer’s mercato. If he is the marquee signing of what is expected to be an underwhelming transfer window, then Juventini might have to lower their expectations for next season, but if he is just one signing among a number that should increase depth and speed in a slow, aging roster then all indications are that he could have a happy time for the Bianconeri.