Jesse Lingard eventually agreed a move to FC Seoul but only after having an incredible number of deals fall through with significantly bigger clubs.
It was announced earlier this week that the player had agreed a two year deal and passed a medical with the K-League club.
The Athletic have taken a deep dive into the story behind the 31 year old’s move to Korea. The outlet have tried to sell the move as pioneering and a “fearless step into the unknown” but numerous broken down deals tell their own story.
Speaking on the move, Lingard stated, “I just want to enjoy playing football again and putting a smile on people’s faces. When FC Seoul came into the equation, they showed a lot of commitment”.
Commenting further on the move, he claimed, “I want to make the K League global and do well here. All I want to do is get back on the pitch and show people what I can do”.
However, when so many clubs and objectively better opportunities were not taken, one must question the motivations behind such a move. Clearly the player was in demand as over 26 clubs reportedly made contact with the attacker.
The story begins with Lingard finding it tough to find game time at Manchester United and he went out on loan to West Ham in 2021 and surprised everyone with a series of fine performances. The logical move would have probably have been to stay at the Hammers but he returned to United and ran down his contract until summer 2022.
He also received offers of two to four-year deals from Fulham and Newcastle United. Lingard’s mindset was apparently on having a good season at Forest, become a free agent again, and then assess his future with the hope of renewed interest.
“Lingard had turned down a return to the London Stadium when he left Manchester United at the end of his contract in 2022, instead signing a lucrative one-year deal with newly-promoted Forest,” The Athletic notes.
It is safe to say things did not work out for the England international as a mix of poor performances and injuries put paid to his time in Nottingham.
After being released, Lingard contacted David Moyes at West Ham, where he had enjoyed a successful loan spell in 2022. The Scottish manager was impressed by the player’s fitness and play and saw him play in a behind-closed doors friendly against Ipswich. However, as The Athletic note, “Moyes felt game time would be limited if he signed him. West Ham had Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio, Said Benrahma, now on loan at Lyon, newcomer Mohammed Kudus and Lucas Paqueta as preferred attacking options”.
The American outlet claim that Lingard only really wanted to stay in the Premier League but more English teams tried and failed to agree a financial package with the Warrington born player.
Gary O’Neil at Wolves tried to bring him in but was hamstrung financially. “Discussions took place but with the club operating on a budget due to financial fair play regulations, the hierarchy wanted to limit potential incomings. This made it harder for O’Neil to get approval”, the report continues.
Everton also showed interest, but no move materialised ever materialised, once again most probably down to economic factors.
The fact that a move for Lingard kept falling at the same hurdle probably suggests wage demands were unrealistically high from a player who has not been at the peak of his career since 2018 or 2019 at best.
Steven Gerrard invited Lingard to come out and train with his Saudi Pro League side Al Ettifaq, to put pressure on them to sign the England international. However, after spending three weeks there, but one again, no deal was ever presented.
However, The Peoples Person relayed that such a deal was on the table but once again, the Englishman’s wage demands were deemed too excessive. It is an impressive feat to make a Saudi Arabian club balk at salary requests.
“In mid-December, other teams started to monitor Lingard’s situation. He received offers from the Championship but had no desire to return to the second tier of English football, where he’d had a series of loans from United early in his career”.
West Brom were one of the teams that showed significant interest and offered him two deals, Besiktas put a £50,000 a week contract on the table, once again, a generous sum for a Turkish side.
There was an approach from an unnamed club in Slovakia and there was also a possibility to play for Portland Timbers in the MLS but the strict salary cap blocked off this avenue.
A report by The Athletic in December claimed that a move to the United States would be appealing to the United academy product, for once again, commercial opportunities.
Therefore, all roads led to Seoul. Despite the winger’s claim of a new challenge, much of The Athletic’s piece still focuses on the commercial and brand growth aspects of the move.
The American outlet claims he could be a huge commercial figure for the club. While he was in Korea over the last couple of days, getting ready to sign, he already had a couple of commercial offers from companies for decent money.
Perhaps instead of being known as “the non-footballing footballer”, his reported obsession with commercial deals over footballing concerns could make him the “Ed Woodward footballer” instead.