The time had finally come for the midfielder to leave Manchester United, having found himself out in the wilderness once again just 12 months on from what seemed to be a career-saving loan spell at West Ham.
Lingard has been given yet another chance to show what he can do in leaving United for Forest, but, unfortunately for him, the move to the City Ground was met with outcry from fans who claimed it was for all the wrong reasons.
Jesse Lingard signed for Premier League new boys Nottingham Forest earlier this summer
Lingard previously enjoyed a successful loan spell at West Ham in the 2020/21 season
‘I could have gone abroad for a lot of money but I want to stay in the Premier League,’ said the 29-year-old after many had suggested his move to Forest was down to money.
Lingard’s reported £120,000-per-week contract at Forest is almost four times Forest’s next highest earner. Seems a well thought-out-wage structure they’ve got going on at the City Ground.
Repercussions for the club may come later – current players and new signings are bound to raise their demands during contract negotiations in the future – but, for Lingard, this is a huge moment in his career.
The midfielder seemed destined to sign for West Ham last summer after scoring nine goals in 16 games for the Hammers on loan.
Lingard formed a good rapport with the West Ham fans, who expected him to re-join the club
The 29-year-old opted to stay at Manchester United but again struggled for minutes
He was loved by the fans and seemed to be enjoying his football again. He’d spoken about his off-the-field struggles at United, and it really did feel as if the Jesse Lingard that had shone in England’s run to the 2018 World Cup semi-final was back.
But he opted to stay at his boyhood club in Manchester and fight for first-team football. It didn’t work.
When it was clear he would be leaving Old Trafford this summer after a staggering 22 years at the club, West Ham had to be favourites for his signature. It was almost expected that it was a matter of when, not if, he would sign.
But he didn’t.
Instead he raised the eyebrows of many – including pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville – in joining Forest, who were arriving in the Premier League for the first time in 23 years with almost a whole new squad after losing several of their promotion-winning stars.
West Ham manager David Moyes helped Lingard regain his best form on loan at the Hammers
The move gained a mixed reaction from Hammers fans, who had been intently waiting for a conclusion to the 18-month-long transfer saga.
Some were disappointed he hadn’t re-joined. Others were almost relieved.
The narrative had dragged on for so long. West Ham fans had welcomed him with open arms – they were ready to give him a new home a year prior, and many felt the feelings were reciprocated.
Things couldn’t be more different now.
West Ham fans grew frustrated with the transfer saga linking them to midfielder Lingard
One supporter posted on Twitter: ‘Relieved it’s over. All about the money clearly and that’s not someone we want at the club.’
Another added: ‘Lingard being a money grabber worker in our favour, I’m more excited about [Maxwell] Cornet.’
A third said: ‘Jesse Lingard signs a one year deal at Nottingham Forrest, proves he knows they’re likely to go down and money was his only motive.
‘Glad, don’t want that at the club. Should’ve joined us last summer but wanted his selfies in training with Ronaldo for Instagram.
It’s hard to tell if Lingard will be looking forward to Forest’s game against West Ham this weekend. He certainly does have a point to prove against his old club – that he can perform in this Forest team, that he still has ambitions, and that he joined for reasons other than a pretty pay check.
But there will be no love lost from the stands.
Sportsmail reported last month that United fans had been planning to throw fake bank notes at Lingard during the game, with fan account whucentre sharing a screenshot of prop money on Amazon with the caption: ‘Anyone else going to Forest away… you know what to do’.
Lingard played some of the best football of his career at West Ham, but must start from scratch
Lingard was criticised for staying at Manchester United last season over joining the Hammers
Lingard can probably be thankful the game isn’t at the London Stadium.
It would be hard to blame West Ham fans for their frustration. They still have a lot of anger towards Lingard, whether that’s justified or not.
But the reality is that he’s only signed a one-year deal with Forest.
Of course than can be extended, but if Steve Cooper’s side are relegated, or things don’t go to plan for the midfielder, he could once again be a free man next summer.
The footballing world knows what he’s about as a player. He would almost certainly be given yet another chance if this season doesn’t work out.
Lingard refused to celebrate when he scored against West Ham for United last season
Lingard’s new side lost 2-0 to Newcastle United in their first game of the season last weekend
We may never know if David Moyes and West Ham fans would welcome him back at the London Stadium. But Lingard refused to celebrate when he scored against his former side for United last season, so there could well still be something there.
There’s a lot of football to be played this season before any of that does or doesn’t happen.
In the meantime, both Lingard and the West Ham fans in attendance on Sunday will be willing to sell their souls to get one up on the other.