COMMENT: There's usually just the one reason for a player to change agents. Even more so when that agent is Mino Raiola. For Jesse Lingard, it appears he knows the writing's on the wall...
But Raiola? At this time? Why would Manchester United's No14 go with the Italian? He'll know the higher ups have had their fill of him. He'll know his manager blames him for the Erling Haaland debacle. And he'll also know Sir Alex Ferguson's attitude towards him.
Indeed, Lingard has broken new ground here. Raiola has managed to place players at United - even before Jose Mourinho's arrival. But no United player has actually signed with Raiola - that is until now.
Well, when we say signed, that's not quite the case. Raiola works off a handshake. There's no service contracts involved. And his prime source of income isn't securing endorsement deals for his clients. Or even negotiating payrises. A player signs with Raiola to get himself a move. But not any old move - which is clearly the motivation for Lingard.
Looking at it from the outside, this one is a desperate roll of the dice. Reality has smacked Lingard right in the face - and he's decided to put his wage packet above all else. Again, Raiola's expertise is shifting players from club to club. But not any old club. And this is clearly what Lingard is banking on.
No goals for 2019. No assists. All..., ahem, achieved as United's prime No10. That 25 year-old, so impressive for England during their run to the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup, is now two years older. A 27 year-old captaining the kids in a dead Europa League rubber in Kazakhstan. One being hooked at halftime in a Carabao Cup semifinal at home. And amid all that, the interest is drying up.
Lingard has been mentioned as a makewight in a swap for Leicester City's attacker James Maddison. And two years ago, you fancy Brendan Rodgers, the Foxes manager, would've snapped United's hand off. But today? It's doubtful he'd see any benefit of such a deal. Forget a Champions League club, in England even Leicester can be argued as being beyond Lingard's level.
Of course, it wasn't supposed to be like this. At 27 and entering his peak earning years, Lingard was expecting to be joining the £200,000-a-week club as a Premier League footballer. And was aiming to do so with United.
But on present form, that's a pipe dream. Leicester won't be paying him such wages. And any of those mid-table clubs willing to take a gamble are likely to request he take a cut on his salary to join them. Which is where Raiola steps in...
Lingard doesn't live in a vaccum. He'll know what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thinks of Raiola. As he will of vice-chairman Ed Woodward's attitude towards the agent. An agent who just slaughtered his manager in the Italian press. Slammed the board. And declared he'll never place another one of his players at the club again. All those people whom helped Lingard get to where he is today... for the past 20 years... from Solskjaer to Ferguson to all those junior coaches. He's effectively shunned them all to side with someone happy to publicly insult the club.
But these are desperate times for Lingard. And from his angle, it's a decision that can be defended. He's seen Chris Smalling make a success of his move to Roma. He's watched Aaron Ramsey land himself a massive deal with Juventus. Lingard wants more of the same. He knows by staying in England he has little chance of bettering the terms he's currently on. Lingard needs to look abroad - and towards a Champions League club. Raiola, he'll believe, can get him that move.
Inside Carrington there'll be disappointment. Though to be fair, Solskjaer won't take this personally. He won't see Lingard's actions as an insult. Outside perceptions are on thing, but the manager knows the business. He knows how cold it can be. And as Mike Phelan, his No2, has been banging onto him this past fortnight, Lingard's actions also open up an opportunity of a new angle in talks with Angel Gomes.
A new No10 will arrive. Whether that be Maddison or someone else. But convincing Gomes to forget about running down his contract and instead penning new terms will be made all the easier if Lingard is moved on. Solskjaer rates the diminutive midfielder highly. He wants him to stay. And being second on the rung, rather than third or fourth, must give the player and his father, the former Portuguese U20 World Cup winner Gil Gomes, pause for thought.
In the meantime, Lingard - with Raiola now fighting his corner - will seek to find his golden ticket abroad. Italy, potentially France with PSG, are now genuine options. Certainly, an Inter or AC Milan. Even Smalling's AS Roma. It reads a lot better than Crystal Palace or Everton. And there's the greater chance of maintaining his current level of income - which is something Raiola will insist upon above all else.
Raiola does transfers. Not friendships. Nor relationships. Just transfers. That's it. And Lingard, for everything United has given him these past 20 years, will know that. A player only goes with Raiola for one reason...