AC Milan have reportedly joined Barcelona in the race to sign Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard on a free transfer in the summer.

According to a report from ESPN, Manchester United midfielder, Jesse Lingard has emerged as a transfer target for AC Milan and Barcelona, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.

A product of the Manchester United youth academy, Lingard broke into the first-team under Louis van Gaal and rose in prominence under the Dutchman and his successor Jose Mourinho, establishing himself as a key member of the team. However, things have gone pear-shaped for the 28-year-old after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over the reins.

While Lingard started well under the Norwegian, his form deteriorated gradually, leading to him dropping way down the pecking order and hardly featuring in the side. The Englishman sought a loan move in January earlier this year to resurrect his career and did just that in a sensational spell with West Ham United.

Clubs were lining up to sign him in the summer, but Lingard decided to give it another shot at Manchester United after being promised more minutes by Solskjaer. The manager, however, has not lived up to his word, even though the 28-year-old has done well in the sparse time he has been afforded.

Man in demand (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Man in demand (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

As a result, Lingard, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has refused new offers from the Red Devils. There are clubs such as West Ham and Newcastle United who are keen on signing the attacking midfielder in January. Then there are teams who are willing to play the waiting game and launch a swoop for him in the summer when he becomes a free agent, with Barcelona and AC Milan among them.

Much like this past summer window, Barcelona could be forced to explore the free transfer market again next year due to their precarious financial situation. And, Lingard would offer a good value-for-money signing, given his experience at the highest level and versatile nature.

With the Catalans needing a player who can contribute goals from the wider areas beyond Memphis Depay and Ansu Fati, Lingard can be an interesting option to consider. More so, if Ousmane Dembele decides to move on when his contract runs out. However, Barcelona will need to stave off interest from AC Milan if they wish to sign the England star.

The Rossoneri could be forced into the transfer market for an attacking midfielder as Real Madrid are considering integrating Brahim Diaz, who is on loan at Milan till 2023, into their setup from as early as next season. Furthermore, with Samu Castillejo likely to leave shortly, added depth in the attacking areas would be crucial for Stefano Pioli’s side.

Lingard, to that end, can be a shrewd signing, given that he will not cost a penny in transfer fees and add immense value to the team. Both Barcelona and Milan can approach Lingard over a pre-contract agreement in January. It remains to be seen if either club does so, or whether the 28-year-old decides to sign for a team in England.

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