Jesse Lingard would make perfect sense at NYCFC

-For six months in East London in 2021, we saw the best Jesse Lingard had to offer

-It is time for NYCFC to bring him to the nation's biggest market on a low-risk move and show the world he could be that player again

Jesse Lingard, a free agent
Jesse Lingard, a free agent / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

New York City FC needs to make a signing. There is one player who might be the right move for the club.

The Covid-19 pandemic taught us a couple of things about the world's most popular game. It taught us that without crowds, every match was just as intense and entertaining. It also taught us that in the right circumstances, Jesse Lingard could be one of the best offensive playmakers in the Premier League. Some of you may be reading this and laughing, but it is not a lie. In January 2021, during a loan to West Ham United F.C. for six months, Lingard was the best player in the league.

The stats do not lie. He had nine goals and five assists while causing absolute fits for opposing managers as they tried to figure out how to stop him. It meant after spending the last three years as a sub under Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Manchester United F.C., he was finally unleashed. This was the Lingard that José Mourinho was bringing up slowly. This was the Lingard that everyone knew would eventually become a star. It was at West Ham under David Moyes, of all people, where he finally began to reach his potential.

Was it a fluke? A Cinderella story? When the loan was over, and West Ham snuck into a top 6 finish, Lingard returned to Manchester United willing to play out his contract. Instead of pushing for a permanent transfer to West Ham, Lingard wanted to stay loyal and give new manager Erik ten Hag a chance to find him playing time. That never happened, and in 2022, Lingard decided to bolt and sign a one-year lucrative deal with Nottingham Forest F.C instead of a longer term deal with West Ham. The decision turned out to be the worst of his career. He never found this rhythm at Forest and clashed with now-dismissed manager Steve Cooper. He would eventually fall out of the starting eleven and was not brought back at the end of the season. This made him a free agent.

NYCFC should sign Jesse Lingard

For the last six months, Lingard has sat idly by while trying to figure out his next move. Before signing with Nottingham Forest, there was a flirtation with Major League Soccer, but nothing was concrete. Now is a different time than it was six months ago. If he signs with an MLS team this month, then he will be part of training camp. Moreover, he would be transferred as a free agent, so he could join the team right away. Who needs help immediately? You guessed it: NYCFC.

First and foremost, there is a lack of an exciting player currently on the roster. NYCFC has been rumored to make some big moves, especially for international players this offseason, but the squad has not been directly linked to anyone. Nick Cushing prefers a formation in the 4-2-3-1 that Lingard thrived in at West Ham. He thrived as a center-attacking midfielder with a number nine in front of him.

Lingard has also shown a versatility to play the number nine role in the same formation. What those six months at West Ham showed was that given the proper system and centralizing the offense around him might spark something NYCFC hasn't had since the Maxi Moralez and Valentín Castellanos days.

Here's the other caveat. All his teammates, be it Manchester United, West Ham, and Nottingham Forest praised him as a teammate. Not only was he a leader in the locker room and on the field, but he made it his job to keep the squad loose. Whether it was from his constant playfulness, his love of team TikTocks, or his general cheerful attitude, Lingard is always looking out for the players he goes into battle with. There was an extremely tense feeling around NYCFC throughout most of last season. Lingard might just be the right guy to come and wean the pressure off.

In addition, Lingard loves the big city pressure New York City would bring. If he produces, then the city would instantly fall in love with the type of player he is and his personality. He is a great fit for NYCFC because everything that might scare some people away is what he thrives in.

At 31, he is still young enough to make a big impact on a young team. He can teach them how to play and how to grow together. More than anything, Lingard needs one last chance to show the world that his six months at West Ham weren't a fluke. That his best days can still be ahead of him. Some accused him of taking his Nottingham opportunity too lightly. It is unlikely he would take anything lightly again, especially if given the chance to lead NYCFC.

To David Lee and Cushing... the transfer window is now open. Make a no-risk move happen. Bring Lingard to New York City FC.