Freddie Ljungberg's Sounders future in doubt
Former Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg has not returned to the Seattle Sounders for pre-season training against the backdrop of a labour dispute between Major League Soccer and the players' union.
Ex-Sweden captain Ljungberg, 32, was due to report back to the Sounders yesterday to begin preparations for the new MLS season beginning at the end of March.
But, with a possible lockout of players by the league looming as soon as next Monday if the MLS and MLS Players Union cannot successfully conclude negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to replace the CBA that expired at the end of last season, Ljungberg is believed to be looking at playing options back in Europe.
Seattle's highest-paid player, the Swede joined the Sounders at the end of 2008 and helped them to the play-offs in their inaugural season in MLS last year.
On Friday, Ljungberg wrote on his official blog: "I have not made any final decision about the spring as a lot depends on the outcome of the new CBA and lockout threat in MLS.''
That stance was confirmed yesterday by Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who told the Seattle Times: "Freddie Ljungberg's status right now is one where he is looking at options in Europe.
"As a club, we've talked and we've considered some of those options. As of yet, nothing's really happened, so we expect him here. Exactly when the date is that he is going to be here, I'm not exactly sure, but that's an ongoing situation.''
Schmid added he was not happy with Ljungberg's absence from the training camp.
"It's not okay and that'll be something that we'll handle internally as a club in terms of whether there's fines or anything like that,'' he said.
"All of them (players) would like to miss a week. We can't let them all miss a week. So, from that standpoint, we've got to just hold them all to a standard.''
That feeling was echoed by Sounders captain and goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who told the official MLS website: "As far as I'm concerned, if you're under contract and you're supposed to be somewhere, then you go.''
Ljungberg updated his blog today expressing consternation at the reaction his absence generated.
"Just reading in Seattle Times that SSFC coaches don't know about my arrival, which surprises me,'' he said. "Yesterday morning, before the Sounders FC's training, we agreed with (general manager) Adrian Hanauer about my future. Just wanted to give you guys an update, more info to you will follow shortly.''
With the end of the January transfer window approaching, Sounders FC also released a statement about Ljungberg yesterday.
It read: "We have been in constant dialogue with Freddie Ljungberg's representatives. He is in Europe but we hope to have him join our training soon.
"We cannot comment on speculation nor discuss any interest on the part of other clubs. Freddie remains under contract to Sounders FC.''