Arsene Wenger has hailed the rise of George Weah from grassroots African football to Liberian presidency as the greatest story he has seen in his decorated managerial career.
The ex-Arsenal boss was given a hero’s welcome after arriving in the West African nation this week to receive the country’s highest civilian award.
The ceremony is being held by president Weah, 51, who was brought over to Europe from Cameroon football when Wenger was boss of Monaco in 1988.
Claude le Roy, the former French football coach, is also being honoured.
That £50,000 move to the French principality kick-started a stellar career which saw Weah eventually play for Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, and latterly with Chelsea and Manchester City.
Most significantly in 1995, he become the first and only African to win the Fifa World Player of the Year accolade – an award he immediately handed over to Wenger at the glitzy ceremony.
Wenger held a meeting with Weah yesterday at the executive Mansion in the capital of Monrovia.
The 68-year-old, who left the Emirates hotseat after 22 years in May, also watched a local match between Arsenal and Manchester United supporters.
Wenger said: “George Weah’s life is an unbelievable story that would make a book in itself.
“First I will like to say that George was not only an exceptional player.
“George Weah was also a fantastic person and the story of how I brought him to France was absolutely unbelievable.
“I asked my friend Claude whether he had seen any strikers in Africa that could be an addition to the already loaded team and he recommended George Weah.
“I sent somebody over to watch him.
“We brought him over for £50,000 and it took him a while to adapt, but he was ambitious, talented, had great hunger for work and I worked a lot with him.
“He became an absolutely unbelievable player.
“We still have a strong relationship and when he became World Player of the Year he gave me his award.
“Every manager was sitting there – Fabio Capello, Marcello Lippi – and they were absolutely amazed that a player at his age (who was 28 at the time), was capable of that.
“He’s just a remarkable person. I haven’t seen in my coaching career anything exceptional like George story.”
President Weah gushed: “Arsene Wenger didn’t only teach me soccer but taught me the way of life and total humility.”
Wenger had a meeting with the 51-year-old at the executive Mansion