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News: Ex-Manchester United star Jesse Lingard close to FC Seoul move

Former Manchester United star and England international Jesse Lingard is close to joining FC Seoul, according to Sky Sports News on Friday.

According to The Athletic, Lingard is expected to sign a "long-term" deal with FC Seoul, understood to be two years with the option of a third, although there is "still some work to do".

South Korean broadcaster KBS reports that Lingard will arrive in the country on Monday and his salary will be the highest in the K League.

The 31-year-old left Nottingham Forest in June last year after an 11-year association with Manchester United, and has been without a club since.

A move to Saudi Arabia seemed to be on the cards and the former England international even trained with Steven Gerrard's El Attifaq but nothing came of it due to the Saudi league's foreign player quota rules.

Lingard has spent most of his career at Manchester United where he made 232 appearances and won the FA Cup, EFL Cup, as well as the UEFA Europa League, and made 32 caps for England, appearing in the 2018 World Cup and would be seen as the biggest foreign star to move to the K League.

Who are FC Seoul?

FC Seoul are six-time K League champions - three-time champs in the 2004 post-LG Cheetahs era - but have experienced something of a fall from grace over the last few seasons. After winning the K League title on the final day of the 2016 campaign, Seoul then suffered an early AFC Champions League exit the following year and were only able to finish fifth in the league. A relegation battle followed in 2018 and despite a return to the top half of the table in 2019, the capital club have had to settle for lower to mid-table finishes since. Last season, despite a positive start, Seoul finished seventh in a 12-team K League 1. 

FC Seoul are owned by GS Group, a Korean conglomerate that has affiliates in energy and power, retail, and construction. GS Group also own a women's volleyball team, GS Caltex Seoul KIXX, and used to be part of LG before splintering away from the electronics giant in 2004.

FC Seoul play at the 66,000-capacity Seoul World Cup Stadium which hosted three matches at the 2002 World Cup, including Korea's semifinal loss to Germany. The club gets the biggest gates in K League, averaging 22,493 last year.

The club are, however, determined to get back on track and recently appointed one of the league's most promising managers in Kim Gi-dong. Kim had worked wonders with Pohang Steelers, guiding them to an FA Cup triumph last season which was the Steelers's first trophy in 10 years.

If the move goes through, Lingard will be lining up against former Swansea City, Sunderland, and Newcastle midfielder Ki Sung-yueng who recently put pen to paper on a new contract. 


Where will Lingard fit in?

The K League has a foreign player quota of 5+1 in the matchday squad and 3+1 in the starting lineup - the "+1" being a player from an Asia Football Confederation nation. Seoul's other foreigners are German striker Stanislav Iljutcenko, Serbian attacking midfielder Aleksandar Paločević, and Brazilian winger Willyan Barbosa. Not all of FC Seoul's foreign stars, then, can start at the same time and will be in direct competition with Willyan for a starting berth. 

But with new manager Kim Gi-dong's 4-2-3-1 system, used 48% of the time for Pohang last term,  Lingard is likely to start as one of the wide forwards. Willyan can operate from either side too so the pair could well play together.

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