West Ham should swoop early in order to retain Jesse Lingard beyond his half-season loan spell after Manchester United reportedly blocked a permanent transfer last month.
According to The Times, the Red Devils refused to sanction a clause being inserted in the deal that took Lingard to the London Stadium, one that would see the England international join David Moyes’ side on a full-time basis in the summer.
Lingard rejected interest from relegation-threatened duo West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United to seal his move to West Ham, who agreed to pay a £1.5m loan fee and cover the midfielder’s salary, believed to be worth £100,000-per-week.
The Irons will now need to return to Old Trafford in the summer should they wish to tie the rejuvenated maestro down to a long-term deal, after seeing Lingard score three goals in his first four appearances in claret and blue.
Lingard had only made three appearances for Manchester United across all competitions this term before departing on loan, while he was named in just six further matchday squads as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer froze the 28-year-old out wherever he could.
West Ham players, including vice-captain Declan Rice, are said to be attempting to persuade Lingard to push for a permanent move at the end of the season, at which point, he will only have a year remaining on his Red Devils contract.
“Hopefully we can do that for much longer, for next season as well,” Rice said, via quotes by The Times. “He has got a great personality, and the lads have really taken to him.
“He is a ridiculously top player. I knew this from when I played with him with England. He takes the ball on the half-turn, takes the ball in tight areas and relieves the pressure. When you give him the ball on the pitch, you know he is going to do something with it.”
With Lingard making such an instant impact despite spending much of the season lost in the Manchester United wilderness, it will be a surprise if West Ham do not try and retain the 24-cap international beyond his initial half-season deal.
But waiting too long could only serve to play into the Red Devils’ favour, as Solskjaer and Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward can use his performances under Moyes to drive up the asking price for a 2022 free-agent with a current TransferMarkt valuation of just £9m.
The fact that the Hammers squad are also pushing Lingard to try and force through a permanent move may also help his parent side in negotiations, as those relationships should continue to build both on and off the pitch in the coming months.
That should help the 2016/17 Europa League winner take his performances to an even higher standard, despite Lingard already being the Irons’ best player in the top-flight this term based on average WhoScored match ratings with a score of 7.6 out of 10.
Top-goalscorer Tomas Soucek is second with a score of 7.3, ahead of six-goal striker Michail Antonio (7.14) and the midfield metronome Rice (7.03), as the only other West Ham players to boast grades above 7.00 so far.
Lingard has further offered the best average number of shots (3.0) per game by a Hammers player in the Premier League this term, as well as the second-most successful dribbles (1.8) – only behind Arthur Masuaku (2.2) and ahead of Antonio (1.6) and Said Benrahma (1.5).
He is yet to see any of his 0.8 key passes a game – the joint-sixth most at the London Stadium – result in the ball being turned home, but first-team assistant coach Stuart Pearce seems to expect assists will come soon.
“He’s fitted in brilliantly for us. He’s giving energy, goals, assists in these early games. And the flip side of that is that it’s a good move for him,” Pearce told talkSPORT.
So, if West Ham want to keep a player offering such an instant impact long-term, they ought to be swooping early to try and secure as low a fee as possible.