On the eve of his highly anticipated return to Seattle, Freddie Ljungberg said Friday that the Sounders’ unwillingness to discuss a contract beyond the 2010 season was the primary reason he left the club.
Ljungberg, 33, joined the Sounders in 2009 as the first Designated Player in franchise history. The Sounders traded him to the Chicago Fire in July, ending a brief affair that saw the former Arsenal star guide the Sounders to the postseason in their inaugural season before the relationship abruptly turned sour this summer.
The Sounders host the Fire on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET at Qwest Field.
Ljungberg said via conference call that he had spurned interest from European clubs both over the winter and this summer in order to stay in MLS, and that the Sounders intended on waiting until November to discuss a new contract.
[inline_node:317035]“I just asked the club, ‘When are we going to negotiate my contract?’” Ljungberg said. “In Europe, you probably do that at least a year before it ends. I was told that in America, you do it after the contract is up.
“You have to be realistic. I’m 33 years old and I had a lot of options, and I said I can’t just sit and wait,” Ljungberg added. “I had passed some stuff by in the winter, and I did that for the club, for Seattle. I said I needed to make a decision, and that was how it ended up.”
Ljungberg said he harbored no hard feelings toward the Sounders organization, but that the speculation surrounding his contract status led to coach Sigi Schmid’s decision to not allow the star player to work out with the team starting in mid-July.
Ljungberg’s contract – which was inherited by the Fire following the trade – still expires in November, and he said at that point he’ll sit down with the club and weigh his options about returning to Europe or staying in MLS.
“They’ve been absolutely amazing in Chicago,” Ljungberg said. “They have great future plans … but I felt like if I wanted to stay in MLS, I felt it was important to sign for just six months and feel if everything was right and felt correct. Then we’ll make a decision after that.”
The Fire have posted a 2-1-1 record since Ljungberg made his debut in a 3-2 win over the Galaxy on Aug. 1. Ljungberg emerged as one of the club’s top offensive threats almost immediately, and he said Friday that the club’s more offensive approach suits his style of play.
“[Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos] wants to use me more maybe for what I can contribute in that department,” Ljungberg said. “We play a bit more offensive game with the ball on the floor, which I really like. I think that’s a big part of it, and of course, I have great teammates like I did in Seattle that help me out.”
The Sounders, for their part, have surged back into the MLS postseason picture since Ljungberg played his last game with the club on July 4, posting a 5-0-2 record in MLS matches.
“I still have a great relationship with [Sounders technical director] Chris Henderson and [GM] Adrian Hanauer, and I still talk to them and we’re still friends,” Ljungberg said.
“Of course it’s emotional to come back, but when you change teams, it couldn’t be better in any way, the contact I have with [the Sounders] now.”