Marcus Thuram and Timothy Weah add touch of nostalgia to Italian renaissance

Duo have followed in the footsteps of their fathers, Lilian and George, by moving to Serie A

Timothy Weah has left Ligue 1 side Lille to join Juventus. AFP
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On an autumn evening a little under three years ago, Marcus Thuram arrived at Italy’s most fabled stadium. A zealous steward was reluctant to let him in.

The France winger, then of the Borussia Monchengladbach team who were about to train at San Siro ahead of a Champions League fixture against Inter Milan, had mislaid his players’ pass. So he reached for his phone, did a search on himself, and showed the steward the proof he was actually quite a well-known footballer.

He might have added to the middle-aged steward that if he didn’t recognise Marcus, he would certainly know of Marcus’s father, Lilian Thuram, who won 142 caps for France and spent his peak years playing in Italy, reliably man-marking AC Milan and Inter strikers at San Siro while in the jerseys of Parma or Juventus.

Lilian’s oldest son, named after Marcus Garvey the Jamaican political activist, was born in Parma. At the weekend, ahead of his official unveiling as Inter’s first major signing of the summer, 25-year-old Thuram described how he never lost his affection for Italy. “I grew up as a kid watching Serie A,” he said, “and saw so many champions. Coming to Serie A is like coming home.”

It is also a coup for Inter. Marcus, a France international, had interest from the English Premier League and from Barcelona, where his father also played.

The upcoming Italian season will be boon for nostalgics who remember when Serie A was considered the world’s best domestic league because it could attract the likes of Lilian, a World Cup winner with France, and strikers such as George Weah, awarded the Ballon d’Or while with AC Milan.

Just as Marcus was signing for Inter, Timothy Weah, son of George, was agreeing to join Juventus. “I feel at home here,” said the younger Weah, “the history of my family goes through my father playing at Milan.”

The history made by George, an ex-sporting hero who is now president of his native Liberia, might cast an intimidating shadow had 23-year-old Timothy’s career not deviated significantly from the paths taken by his dad.

Weah the older played for Liberia, elevating their national team but not so far he could ever guide them to a World Cup. Timothy, born in New York, where his parents met, represents the USA, and impressed for them at last year’s World Cup.

George Weah was a peerless centre-forward; his son has attacking flair but has been most effective in wide roles through his spells at Paris Saint-Germain and at Lille, from whom Juve signed him, planning to use his pace and energy at right wing-back.

That opens up the prospect of Marcus, who played in the last World Cup final for France, directly up against Timothy when Inter meet Juventus, just as their fathers were many times in Serie A.

Marcus’s skill-set is a mirror image of his dad’s: the son plays with equal effectiveness at centre-forward or on the left wing; Lilian operated at centre-back and right-back through his long, distinguished career.

On the opposite flank at next season’s Juventus will be Federico Chiesa, whose father, Enrico, was a colleague at Parma of Lilian's.

Juve, like Inter, will be seeking to depose the reigning champions, Napoli, who last month formalised the full signing of striker Gio Simeone, a scudetto winner in Napoli’s light-blue season while he was on loan from Verona. Twenty-three years earlier, Diego Simeone, his father, had won Serie A in the pale blue of Lazio.

There’s a Maldini at large, too, as there has been for much of the last 70 years. Winger Daniel Maldini – son of Paolo and grandson of Cesare, who won 11 league titles with Milan between them – collected a Serie A medal with Milan in 2022, before thriving on loan at Spezia last season.

Milan are weighing up whether to accelerate 21-year-old Daniel’s development with another loan or keep him on site for the coming campaign.

“Serie A has changed since my father was playing here,” acknowledged Marcus. But his choosing to move to Italy is an endorsement that the league’s status, still shy of where it was a generation ago, is rising again.

Inter, Champions League finalists last month, were one of three Italian clubs who finished runners-up in major European finals. The renaissance feels a little more personal now that a Weah, a Simeone, a Thuram, a Chiesa and a Maldini are involved.

Updated: July 04, 2023, 3:05 AM