Nottingham Forest add Jesse Lingard to summer revamp as club look to secure Premier League safety
If there was any doubt about Nottingham Forest’s ambition on their return to the Premier League, the package worth almost £200,000 a week handed to Jesse Lingard should immediately terminate them.
Forest had already attracted attention by spending over £70million on nine new players, but signing Lingard takes their summer spending to a whole new level. Where other promoted clubs spend little and collect the television money, Forest has pushed the boat out.
This is a player who West Ham – last season’s biggest challenger of the big six – were willing to pay £150,000 a week to join them, and who is still hoping to make his way to England’s World Cup squad. Owner Evangelos Marinakis was determined to make a statement after Forest regained its top status for the first time this century. By capturing an attacker who has spent most of his career at Manchester United, he has certainly achieved that.
Nottingham Forest finally returned to the Premier League when they won the Championship play-off final against Huddersfield in May
Their manager Steve Cooper is supported in the transfer market as he strengthens his team
Owner Evangelos Marinakis has not been afraid to spend a lot of money to keep Forest in the big time
Within moments of announcing the signing, Forest milked it out on social media, dedicating the banner on their Twitter page to an image of Lingard in his new colors. The 29-year-old also released a typically flamboyant video on his own social media channels to mark the occasion.
This changes the expectation around Forest in one fell swoop. They already had the highest net spend in the Premier League this summer, but none of those purchases were a household name. After this commitment, relegation is not an option. The pressure on boss Steve Cooper – who did a remarkable job leading the club out of the championship – just ramped up a few notches. Lingard could make his first appearance in Union Berlin’s friendly on Saturday and is destined for a role just behind the attackers in Cooper’s favorite 3-4-1-2 formation.
The driving force behind this deal, and the expenses that may follow, has been Marinakis. The Greek shipping magnate, who also owns Olympiakos, has been in charge of The City Ground since 2017, but is now really flexing his muscles.
Despite possible relegation, Emmanuel Dennis scored ten goals for Watford last season
Jesse Lingard has been offered a first two-year deal by Nottingham Forest
The former Manchester United star flies around the world during the off-season
Marinaki has faced controversy in the past. He was involved in a 2015 investigation into match fixing in his home country, but was acquitted of all charges along with 27 others in January last year. No action has been taken against him for alleged involvement in the bombing of a referee bakery. He has always denied all wrongdoing.
He is in regular contact with Cooper, who was happy to add Premier League experience to his team, and this summer’s transfer campaign did not hit the mark.
Extensive background checks are carried out into potential new signings and Forest has always had two recruitment plans: one for the Premier League and one for the Championship.
Defenders Moussa Niakhate and Giulian Biancone, and forward Taiwo Awoniyi, were scrutinized before Forest made their move. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson – on loan from Manchester United – and Neco Williams, bought from Liverpool for £18million, appear to be smart buys.
How Nottingham Forest handled themselves in the Championship Play-off final, victory over Huddersfield
How Nottingham Forest could line up next season with their new signings and transfer targets
Summer purchases from Forest
Taiwo Awoniyic (Union Berlin) £17m
Neco Williams (Liverpool) £16 million
Moussa Niachate (Mainz) £13m
Omar Richards (Bayern Munich) £10m
Lewis O’Brien and Harry Toffolo (Huddersfield) £10m combined
Giulian Biancone (Troyes) £9m
Brandon Aguilera (LD Alajuelense) £855,000
Wayne Hennessey (Burnley) Free
Dean Henderson (Man United) Loan
Midfielder Lewis O’Brien and fullback Harry Toffolo were key members of the Huddersfield team Forest who were defeated in the play-off final, while Omar Richards – who will miss the start of the season – has switched from Bayern Munich. They have also stuck to the homegrown gem Brennan Johnson, who has signed an improved deal.
However, the picture is not entirely rosy. Cooper relied heavily on four loan players last season: Djed Spence, James Garner, Philip Zinckernagel and Keinan Davis. Spence has signed for Tottenham, Garner and Davis have returned to Manchester United and Aston Villa respectively, while Zinckernagel was sold to Olympiakos by parent club Watford. In all fairness, Lingard should be a major upgrade from the Dane.
The recent experiences of Fulham and Aston Villa are also a warning. In 2018/19 Fulham spent £105 million on 10 players and were promptly relegated. The following season, Villa threw in £143.5 million at 14 and only survived on the final day of the season, thanks to a post-lockdown run of eight points from their last four games. With so many new faces, unity in the locker room is hard to forge and can break after a string of early defeats.
In Cooper, however, Forest has one of the smartest managers in the game. One of the former Swansea boss’s first acts after taking over as manager last September – when Forest was bottom of the championship by a single point – was to invite members of Brian Clough’s 1979 and 1980 European Cup-winning squads to view the workout. The message to his players and the club was simple: embrace history; don’t be afraid of it.
Moussa Niakhate (left) and Taiwo Awoniyi (right) are two players Forest has brought in
Nottingham Forest has signed Liverpool fullback Neco Williams for £17million
“He is very professional and very stylish,” said Garry Birtles, who played in both campaigns and scored the only goal for John Robertson in the 1980 final against Hamburg.
“(Fellow Forest legend) John McGovern and I went to meet him early in his regimen and by watching the training sessions you could see what an impressive coach he is.
“He’s not afraid of what happened in the past, which I think some managers have been. He wants to take Nottingham Forest to the next stage.”
Big spenders who couldn’t stay up
Fulham returned to the Premier League by beating Aston Villa in the play-off final, spending just over £100 million trying to stay there.
They have spent £27 million on Jean Michael Seri, £22.4 million on Andre Zambo Anguissa and £22 million on Aleksandar Mitrovic.
But to no avail as they finished 19th, by a significant margin of 10 points short of the safety mark.
ASTON VILLA 2015-16
Villa’s owner Randy Lerner was determined to make a better fist of it.
He thrashed Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph for £40 million to increase the budget and spent around £60 million on the likes of Jordan Ayew, Jordan Amavi, Adama Traore and Idrissa Gueye.
Despite all the fresh faces, Villa was even more useless, finishing at a low point with a miserable return of 17 points and a whopping 22 shy of safety.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 2014-15
QPR could make this list multiple times over, given the bloated squad and massive wage bill they had in both the Premier League and the Championship a decade ago.
Prior to their return to the top tier in 2014, they spent £40 million with the likes of Steven Caulker, Leroy Fer and Sandro.
You can guess what happened next – QPR bottomed out.