David Moyes says he was “surprised” that Jesse Lingard chose a potential relegation scrap with Nottingham Forest over European football with West Ham after the club made a “fantastic offer” to bring the midfielder back to the London Stadium.
Speaking ahead of the Hammers’ season opener against Manchester City, Moyes also admitted his side are “not ready” for the start of the new campaign and insisted his current squad is not good enough to break into the top six, with more signings needed before the end of the window.
Lingard was one of Moyes’ leading targets this summer, with the West Ham boss keen on a reunion after the midfielder enjoyed a superb loan spell at the club during the second half of the 2020-21 season.
The 29-year-old was a free agent after leaving Manchester United at the end of his contract but after delaying a decision over his future eventually snubbed the Hammers in favour of a one-year deal at newly-promoted Forest, who are understood to be paying the England international around £115,000-per-week, excluding lucrative bonuses.
“I was surprised,” Moyes said. “I thought Jesse, in the end, would come here and I’ve got to say the club made him a really good offer. You couldn’t turn around and say David Sullivan and the owners didn’t do everything they could to get him. They certainly did.
“We would have liked to have had him. But he chose [Forest] and he was entitled to that. He was a free transfer, he was entitled to choose where he wanted to go.”
The failed pursuit of Lingard has been one of a number of frustrating sagas for the Hammers this summer, with a deal for Lille midfielder Amadou Onana now looking dead in the water after the club refused to bow to the 20-year-old’s hefty wage demands.
When asked whether he had been surprised by the market, Moyes added: “If only you knew. It’s been incredible. We’ve made bids for numerous, numerous players. Genuine bids and genuine money and for different reasons we’ve not got them.
“They’ve not wanted to come to the club or we’ve not got the financial deal right or we’ve not been able to pay the player and the agent, so one way or another we’ve found it difficult to be competitive this summer. Hopefully come the end of the window we’ll have got ourselves in order.”
West Ham have endured a disjointed pre-season, with some players late back after international duty at the end of last season, while new signings have taken time to arrive and injuries have also dogged preparations.
Premier League champions City therefore represent a daunting first opponent and while Moyes is hopeful of catching Pep Guardiola’s men cold, he concedes the same concern could apply to his own side.
“We are all going to watch the first games of the season tonight, tomorrow, and there is a good chance a lot of the teams won’t be ready,” Moyes said. “I would have to say we are not ready yet. We are still trying to get a rhythm.
“I think you might find a little bit of the same [with City]. The problem has been the players going away on international duty and only coming back and not having much time. You may well see one or two, I wouldn’t say strange results, but may not be quite as fluent.”
Despite Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet becoming the Hammers’ fifth signing of the summer, Moyes believes the club have “an awful lot more business to do” before the transfer window closes and when asked whether he has a squad capable of finishing in the top six, having fallen just short last year, said: “Not today I don’t. I’m working towards getting one before the end of the window.”