Arsene Wenger wrongly congratulated his former player George Weah for winning the Liberian presidential election on Thursday.
The Arsenal boss was seemingly the victim of false reports which suggested that the former Monaco and AC Milan star was successful in his bid for the top job in his native Liberia, despite results not yet having been confirmed.
“I would like to congratulate one of my former players, who became president of Liberia,” the Frenchman said in his pre-Watford press conference.
“It is not often that you have a former player who becomes a president of a country,” he continued.
“Well done George and I would say just for him to keep his enthusiasm and his desire to learn and to win.”
Weah, winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1995, was one of 20 candidates in Tuesday’s presidential election.
It is his third tilt at the job, but he is one of the front-runners to replace current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Results are expected shortly, with most political commentators expecting it to go to a second round, as candidates need more than a 50 per cent vote share to claim an outright win.
Weah was coached by Wenger at Monaco, with the pair building a special relationship which culminated in Weah dedicating his World Player of the Year award to his former manager.
Weah was born 1 October 1966.
Regarded as one of the greatest African players of all-time and as one of the best forwards of his generation, in 1995 he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or, becoming the first African player to win these awards.
In 1989, 1994 and 1995, he was named the African Footballer of the Year, and in 1996, he was named African Player of the Century. Known for his acceleration, speed, and dribbling ability, in addition to his goalscoring and clinical finishing, Weah was described by FIFA as “the precursor of the multi-functional strikers of today”. In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.
After starting his career in his home country of Liberia, Weah spent 14 years of his professional football career playing for clubs in France, Italy and England. Arsène Wenger brought him to Europe when he signed for Monaco in 1988. Weah moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 1992 where he won Ligue 1 in 1994 and became the top scorer of the 1994–95 UEFA Champions League.
He signed for Milan in 1995 where he spent four successful seasons, and won the Italian Serie A twice. His most notable goal in Italy saw him run the length of the field against Verona. He moved to the English Premier League towards the end of his career and had spells at Chelsea and Manchester City, before returning to France to play for Marseille in 2001, and subsequently ending his career with Al-Jazira in 2003. At international level, he represented Liberia at the African Cup of Nations on two occasions.
An idol in Africa, Weah has been heavily involved in politics in his homeland Liberia. He ran unsuccessfully for president in the 2005 election, losing to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the second round of voting. In the 2011 election, he ran for vice president on Winston Tubman’s ticket. Running as a Congress for Democratic Change candidate, Weah was elected to the Senate in 2014.
After playing in the Liberian domestic league at the beginning of his successful career, and winning several national honours (including the Liberian Premier League and the Liberian Cup), Weah moved to Europe in 1988, when he was signed by Arsène Wenger, who was the manager of Monaco at the time, and whom Weah credits as an important influence on his career.
During his time with Monaco, Weah won the African Footballer of the Year for the first time in 1989; this was his first major award and he took it back home for the entire country to celebrate.
Weah also won the Coupe de France in 1991, and he helped Monaco reach the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992, scoring four goals in nine cup appearances.