As many as a dozen European teams across different countries are interested in the services Freddie Ljungberg for 2011, and the Swedish international is unsure if he’ll return to Chicago or Major League Soccer next year.
Ljungberg’s London-based agent Phil Smith told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday that there is ongoing dialogue between the Swedish international and the Fire, who brought Ljungberg in from Seattle in July by way of the first trade for a Designated Player in league history.
But Ljungberg’s contract with MLS expires at the end of the year, leaving him open to a potential relocation back to Europe, where he most famously starred for Arsenal and West Ham United before joining the Sounders in 2009.
Smith said that while the talks with Chicago are active, “There is dialogue elsewhere as well.” Smith also confirmed that Ljungberg has interest in potentially returning to Europe if the contract offer and team fit are appealing enough.
“He’s very open-minded about it,” said Smith, who added that 10 to 12 European teams are interested in Ljungberg. “He’d be quite happy to stay in the States if the fit was right, but he wants to be with the right team at the right time.”
The only potential catch, however, is that Ljungberg, 33, can’t play for a club until the international transfer window opens Jan. 1. By that point, he will have been out of action for more than two months, and he’ll need to regain his match fitness and form while European teams are in full midseason stride.
“He can’t play for anyone until [Jan. 1], so clubs here have time to decide what they want to do,” Smith said. “Those teams are probably ahead of where he’s physically at.”
[inline_node:317198]Ljungberg spurned interest from Europe during the last winter transfer window in order to stay in MLS, but he said the Seattle Sounders’ reluctance to discuss a contract beyond the 2010 season led to a rift and the eventual trade to Chicago.
“They’ve been absolutely amazing in Chicago,” Ljungberg said in August. “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.”
Smith confirmed that a number of MLS teams have expressed interest in acquiring Ljungberg, who scored two goals in 15 appearances with Chicago after coming over in the midseason move.
“There are teams who, throughout the year, have stated their interest,” Smith said. “We’ll just have to see if that goes anywhere with him. It’s still premature.”