Timothy Weah essentially left Paris Saint-Germain because they were too successful.
The U.S. men’s national team attacker spent five years at the Parc des Princes, rising through the capital club’s academy right up to the first team.
However, once there, he understandably found minutes somewhat hard to come by at a club that features attacking megastars like Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria.
And so, at the age of 19, Weah swapped the glitz and glamour of PSG for more modest goals at Lille. He took a step backwards in order to take his career forward, and now that bold move is belatedly paying off.
Indeed, as it turns out, Weah’s hopes of lifting the Ligue 1 trophy didn’t really end when he left Paris.
With just two games of the current campaign remaining, Lille are perfectly placed to deny PSG an eighth title in nine seasons.
Christophe Galtier’s side are three points clear at the top of the table, meaning just four points from their final two games would be enough to seal the deal.
Lille face 11th-place Saint-Etienne at home this weekend before visiting 12th-place Angers on the final day. PSG, meanwhile, host 13th-place Reims in their penultimate match before wrapping up against 14th-place Brest.
In short, Lille’s destiny is in their own hands.
It would be a stunning success for Les Dogues but also a personal triumph for Weah, a player who ranked 17th on Goal’s 2019 NxGn list but has been hindered by injuries over the past couple of years.
The American originally joined Lille ahead of the 2019-20 season, fresh off a loan spell with Celtic. He signed a five-year deal with the club who, at the time, were coming off a second-place finish, 16 points behind the club Weah had departed, PSG.
Injuries, though, defined his first season with the club. He missed six months after suffering a hamstring injury against Amiens before suffering another in his first game back against Marseille. In total, Weah made just three appearances during his debut season at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
This time around, though, Weah has carved out a more regular role for himself, mainly as an impact substitute. He’s featured 28 times for Lille in Ligue 1 this season, with 21 of those appearances coming off the bench.
However, four of his seven starts have come since March, as Lille faced the most vital chunk of their season.
He’s also contributed goals, too; three of them in Ligue 1 to be specific. Weah scored twice in a seven-day span in December as Lille took down Dijon and Montpellier before adding his third goal against Bordeaux in February.
You can also add in two goals from Lille’s run through the Europa League, a competition that they won’t return to next season as they set their sights on a Champions League run.
Weah’s resurgence, though, is just one of several endearing success stories at Lille.
There’s Jonathan David, Weah’s fellow CONCACAF standout, who is Canada’s best export not named Alphonso Davies, and Renato Sanches, the Portuguese star who has reignited his career after flopping at Bayern Munich.
Burak Yilmaz has contributed 17 goals after years of scoring freely in Turkey’s Super Lig, while Premier League veteran Jose Fonte remains ever-present at the back.
“I think it’s a great group of young guys who have a lot to prove,” Weah said in February. “We’re all super-hungry.
“I really want to speak about Renato [Sanches] too. He was having a tough time at Bayern, he wanted to start all over again, he came here and look at the success he’s had so far!
“He’s having a great time here. Everyone’s having a great time and, as a group, we feel great. And everyone’s just hungry to keep going.”
He added: “You know football. You never know what’s going to happen but, with this group of players and this coaching staff, our goal was to be at the top and that’s where we are at the moment. So, we’re happy with that and we just want to continue doing what we’re doing.”
If they do, they’ll claim what would be Lille’s fourth Ligue 1 crown, and only their second since 1954. Weah would also get his hands on the trophy for the second time in his fledgling career, having made three appearances during PSG’s 2017-18 title triumph.
Unsurprisingly, Weah has many fond memories of his time in Paris and he remains close to many members of the current squad.
“It was really surprising: I didn’t expect Neymar to be such a good guy when I got to the team,” Weah told the Orange Slices podcast . “I thought he would’ve had an ego and all that extra stuff, but he’s a super-sincere guy, a good friend. I’ve seen him in New York a couple of times, so we hang out over there.
“Layvin Kurzawa is a good close friend on the team. I still see him when I go home to New York. We link up and just vibe. There are a bunch of good guys on that team.”
However, the focus now is on denying his friends a fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title.
Weah and Lille’s eclectic group of rising youngsters and formidable veterans have a golden opportunity to knock PSG off their carefully crafted perch.