Barcelona and AC Milan are claimed to be ‘at the front of the queue’ to sign Jesse Lingard, with the midfielder’s future at Manchester United uncertain.
The England international has less than a year remaining on his existing deal, leaving open the possibility that he could move on for free at the end of the season following the expiry of his contract or for a cut-price fee in January.
Having kickstarted his career on-loan at West Ham in the second half of last season – where he scored nine times in 16 league games for the club – the 28-year-old is back in the first-team fold at Old Trafford, yet has found game time hard to come by despite showing glimpses of his quality.
The versatile midfielder came off the bench to score against both Newcastle United and former club West Ham, while he also laid on the assist for Cristiano Ronaldo’s stoppage-time winner in the dramatic victory against Villarreal in the Champions League – again having entered the fray as a late substitute.
Despite those vital involvements, the Manchester United academy product has been unable to break into the starting XI, with his only start of the season so far coming in the 1-0 defeat against the Hammers in the Carabao Cup.
Lingard recently rejected a new contract offer from United as he contemplates his future, with the Red Devils yet to return with an improved offer to tempt him to stay.
That has opened up the possibility of a departure in the coming months, with foreign sides able to sign a pre-contract agreement as early as January 1, with the Mail reporting that Barcelona and AC Milan are the frontrunners for his signature.
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The report suggests that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to keep the player at the club – the Norwegian having handed Lingard his debut in the reserves just over a decade ago – and there may still be an improved deal offered.
That being said, the ‘final decision’ will rest with the player himself, with the feeling that he is keen to secure regular game time ahead of next year’s World Cup in Qatar, having returned to the international set-up in recent months.
As for his potential destinations should he choose to leave, a move to the Nou Camp could be on the cards with the cash-strapped side likely to be interested in a player who is available for free, while their forward line currently appears in need of bolstering.
A switch to Italy has also been mooted, with Lingard potentially set to link up with former United teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the San Siro.
There would likely be interest from the Premier League, with Arsenal, Leicester, Everton and of course, West Ham, all having been previously linked.