One of the leading lights of the global game in the 1990s, Liberia's George Weah remains a superstar in Africa. Although he never had the opportunity to grace the FIFA World Cup™ finals, Weah made up for it with a hugely successful club career. FIFA.com takes a closer look at a legendary player.
Every month FIFA.com presents an article offering an in-depth look at a player, match or event featured in its amazing five-DVD anthology of the African game.
George Weah was a towering figure on the '90s football scene. An exceptional goalscorer, it is no exaggeration to describe him as the precursor of the multi-functional strikers of today. Quick, skilful and boasting a powerful physique, fierce shooting power and deadly finishing skills, in his pomp Liberia's 'Mr George' was rightly considered one of the giants of the game.
He began his career in 1987 with Yaounde's Tonnerre, one of the biggest clubs in Cameroon, before joining Monaco a year later at the age of 21. Arsene Wenger, his coach in the principality, would later say of his purchase: "Weah was a real surprise. For me it was like a child discovering a chocolate bunny in his garden at Easter. I have never seen any player explode on to the scene like he did."
A return of 47 goals in 103 league matches for the Monegasques backs up Wenger's glowing appraisal. However, after a four-season stay he moved north to Paris Saint-Germain, where he made his mark across the continent by scoring 16 times in 25 European outings, a haul that included a wonder-goal against Bayern Munich.
After top-scoring in the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League with eight goals, he decamped to AC Milan and scooped the FIFA World Player of the Year, France Football's European Footballer of the Year and the CAF African Footballer of the Year awards for 1995. After quickly winning over the tifosi, he helped I Rossoneri to the championship in 1996, collecting a second scudetto three years later.
In 114 appearances in the famous red-and-black jersey he scored 46 goals, none of them better than his unforgettable solo effort against Verona, which saw him slalom his way past seven opposing players before coolly slotting the ball home. Weah departed Milan in January 2000, joining Chelsea and then moving on to Manchester City, Marseille and Al Jazirah before announcing his retirement in August 2003.
The Liberian's personal achievements reflect his immense impact on the game. He is the only African to have been voted FIFA World Player of the Year by his peers, and aside from his unique 1995 hat-trick, he also collected France Football's African Footballer of the Year award in 1989 and 1994, and was named African Footballer of the Century by the continent's sport writers in 1999.
An idol in Africa and in Liberia in particular, he has done everything possible to aid the development of the national team, leading Liberia's golden generation of Christopher Wreh, James Debbah and Co to the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1996. After calling time on his playing career, Mr George worked for a number of charity organisations before launching a high-profile political career in his homeland.
Thanks to his generous support of humanitarian causes and the Liberian national team, Weah has earned the nickname “Western Union”. During his playing days he was known as “Mister George”.
In December 2005 Weah was defeated in the second round of the Liberian presidential elections, polling 40 per cent of the votes to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s 60 per cent.
On 11 June 2005 the George Weah and Friends team, coached by Arsene Wenger and starring Didier Drogba, won 9-8 against an international team skippered by Zinedine Zidane and managed by Claude Le Roy and Rolland Courbis.
On 8 September 1996 Weah scored a magnificent goal in a league match against Verona. Collecting the ball in the Milan box from a corner, he ran the whole length of the pitch, dribbling past seven players on the way, before scoring with an angled drive.
Weah was only six minutes into his debut for Milan against Padova in the 1995/96 season when he scored his first Serie A goal. He later set up the winner for Franco Baresi in a 2-1 victory for I Rossoneri.