It’s been a while since Scottish football fans got properly excited for a January transfer window. Most clubs can only rely on loans and free agents but the country’s top clubs are preparing for a busy month as a potential title race heats up beyond the winter months. We’ve already had the arrivals of Jermaine Defoe and Oliver Burke as well as the return to Scottish clubs of Ryan Gauld and Steven Davis – all on loan. It is another loan move that seems most intriguing and for reasons that are more than meets the eye.
Timothy Weah, son of African footballing icon and current Liberian president George Weah, has joined Celtic on loan from PSG until the end of this season. Eighteen year old Weah will join the Hoops at their Winter training camp in Dubai as they make preparations to bounce back from their recent Old Firm derby disappointment. The young striker will be expected to provide fierce competition for Celtic’s record signing Odsonne Edouard, himself an initial loan arrival from PSG, while Leigh Griffiths recovers from personal issues.
Weah is a hot prospect and had been heralded as a potential breakthrough star in Ligue 1 this season. Although he signed a contract extension with the French champions earlier this week he will have to wait to make an impact there as he swaps Paris for Glasgow for the next six months. With two goals in just three appearances this season the striker clearly has an eye for goal: a bit like his father. However, it is his background which makes this move more intriguing than most.
At a time when soccer is growing arms and legs in the USA this transfer has the potential to be as profitable off the pitch as it does on it for Celtic. The young striker is seen as a bit of a poster boy in the USA. Weah learned his trade in Florida and New York before signing for PSG after just one year in the New York Red Bulls’ academy. He has been capped at every level for the USA men’s national team including eight senior caps gained over the last year. There was a lot of hype surrounding his senior international debut vs Paraguay in March 2018 and many Americans will be keeping a keen eye on his progress at Celtic Park.
In the past week, we have seen America’s number one generational talent, Christian Pulisic, sign for Chelsea in a mega £58m move. Although it would be a disservice to Pulisic’s incredible talents to say Chelsea pursued his signature for North American business opportunities it is fair to say that it would have been somewhere in the back of their mind.
These transfers may open many doors for both Chelsea and Celtic to exploit the American market; where the sport is more popular than it has ever been following a record breaking year for Major League Soccer. Young Americans will use the players as an inspiration as the interest in soccer grows amongst all ages. Is this an opportunity to gain some cross Atlantic fans of Scottish football?
The USA men’s national team may have disappointed by failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but, helped by Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco grabbing the headlines, MLS is finally starting to make its mark. Breakthrough stars such as Josef Martinez and Alphonso Davies have alerted European giants, with the latter signing for Bayern Munich only a few months ago. Martinez’s team, Atlanta United, lifted MLS Cup in front of a sell-out Mercedes Benz stadium in only their second season and that’s enough to show you how quickly football can grow in the States.
Celtic and Rangers have over six hundred supporters clubs worldwide and many of those are in North America. Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona and, more recently, Manchester City, PSG and Juventus have exploited these markets to gain a global fan-base. There is no reason why the Old Firm can’t be next to grab this opportunity.
Has there been a better time to sell our game to the North American market? We’re in the middle of the most exciting season in over a decade; with a number of sides challenging at the top end of the table as well as big name players and managers returning to Scotland. In the past we’ve had Claudio Reyna, Maurice Edu and DeMarcus Beasley at Rangers and more recently current LA Galaxy and USMNT midfielder Perry Kitchen had a spell at Hearts but Weah – an eighteen year old hot prospect striker with famous lineage – could have an even greater impact for the Scottish game across the water.
This loan move should open many doors for Celtic in the transatlantic market such as selling merchandise, setting up fan bars or simply engaging with the US audience on social media. There will be high expectations for both Pulisic and Weah to perform on the pitch but don’t be surprised if their clubs have had dollar signs in their eyes as well as visions of bulging opposition nets.