Jesse Lingard is a free agent, and Forest could be interested, but who can justify such a high salary? It was not on Bosman’s mind…

It’s been seven weeks since Manchester United made one of the summer’s least surprising transfer announcements, that Jesse Lingard would be leaving the club when his contract expired. Lingard’s risk had failed.

Lingard returned to Old Trafford last summer after an excellent loan spell at West Ham United the previous season, with every intention of demonstrating to the club’s hierarchy that he should be given the opportunity to take that improvement in form and shape it into something that Manchester United could use.

He chose to’stay and fight for his place’ in the United team, which is understandable given that he had been with the club for 20 years.

A year later, it’s clear that this decision benefited no one. Manchester United had their worst season since the Premier League’s inception. Lingard finished the season with only 16 league appearances and two goals to his name.

Even West Ham United couldn’t improve in his absence, finishing seventh and missing out on a Europa League spot for the second year in a row. The fact that Manchester United released a statement about his future on June 1 indicated that they couldn’t wait to get rid of him.

Lingard is still a free agent after six weeks, though that isn’t expected to last much longer. West Ham remain interested in bringing him to The London Stadium, but this week has seen competition for his attention from newly promoted Nottingham Forest, as well as reports of interest from MLS and Saudi Arabia.

But it’s Forest’s interest that has everyone talking; they’re reportedly willing to break their wage structure to lure Lingard to The City Ground.

After all, this would put Lingard on the same wage as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino at Liverpool. And even though this is a somewhat crude way of comparing players, it’s difficult to see what the justification for this wage demand might be, other than that it would cost Forest less to pay a transfer fee for a player in the same position. Is he trying to factor in the ‘saving’ of this phantom transfer fee?

 Forest have had their fair share of run-ins with instability in the not-too-distant past – while the fact that they’re considering doing so for a player for whom consistency hasn’t exactly been a byword in recent years and who is no longer seriously considered to be in contention for a place in their national team, seems counterintuitive.

Bosman’s ruling was about freedom of movement, rather than the enrichment of footballers. Players have always been treated as chattels to some extent or other and this remains the case to this day. Jesse Lingard’s wage expectations seem all the more surprising because there remain, as ever, plenty of other decent free agents who might not be as much of a gamble as he surely would be. But he is, of course, entitled to ask for as much as he likes. What really matters is how clubs respond to it all. But £180,000 a week is a big gamble to take on a player whose resale value would be low and who demonstrated precious little of the talent at his disposal last season. If Forest can complete this transfer and it works out for all concerned, then neither the club nor the player will have any complaints. But for now it all feels a little bit surreal.

sport 1