Jesse Lingard of FC Seoul speaks to media at the GS Champions Park in Guri, Geonggi Province, March 23. Yonhap

These are tough times for Jesse Lingard and also for FC Seoul. The former England international surprisingly signed for the five-time South Korean champion in February in a blaze of publicity but it has not lasted. In the first seven games of the K League, however, he has played just 105 minutes due to fitness issues and injuries. At the end of last week, the ex-Manchester United midfielder went under the knife for surgery on his knee. It is expected that he will be out of action for at least a month. “Successful surgery on my meniscus, thank you for all the messages — everything happens for a reason,” Lingard posted to his 9.3 million followers on Instagram accompanied by a photo of him lying in a hospital bed. Given the international break that is coming soon, it could be the middle of June by the time he returns to action for Seoul. Then the pressure really will be on. So far, the 31 year-old has yet to really impress though there have been just three appearances. There have been flashes of the skills that, until 2021, made him a regular in a strong England team, but the biggest signing in the K League’s 41-year history has to do more. 

It is not a complete surprise. He arrived in the Land of the Morning Calm after almost a year without any meaningful action on the field as he was released by Nottingham Forest at the end of the last English Premier League season. Some rustiness then was to be expected and it is unfortunate that injuries have been an issue. At present Seoul lies in the middle of the rankings. After almost 52,000 fans went to Seoul World Cup Stadium for his home debut against Incheon United, Lingard has made more international headlines for comments made by coach Kim Ki-dong after the game with Jeju United on March 16. “He only played a few minutes, and yet he didn’t work hard and avoided tussle. If you run less than a footballer who has played 90 minutes, you’re not even a footballer. Fame doesn’t win football games. If it did, I would have brought in a famous retired player.” 

Later, both coach and player played down the significance of the remarks that may seem a little more nuanced and encouraging in the original Korean than English but internationally, the damage has been done and well-covered by the ever-excitable British football media. There are two positives so far. Lingard has shown that he is keen to succeed in Asia’s oldest professional league and, while he has made little impact on the field so far, he has been making the right noises off it. And the other is that there is still a long way to go, these are still early days. Lingard is going to have more chances to impress. In China and Japan there have been big-name stars that have come and gone. Some have been successful and plenty have not. The K League has never gone in for the world-famous stars. Lingard is the first and if he can be successful then everybody wins, apart from the opponents he helps to defeat. Jesse Lingard is the star that has yet to 스포츠토토존 shine in South Korea but there is still time for him to do so.

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