He says that he had interest from a major club in Europe, but that his present situation with the Fire is the same he viewed as unacceptable in Seattle: A contract that runs out in November.
Here are the parts of the interview dealing with his contract and departure from the team (some answers edited for clarity):
What went wrong?I tried to take the high road and not comment and stuff when everything was written and everything was going on, because I felt that was not the time to talk. I still have great relationship with Chris Henderson and Adrian Hanauer, the ownership group. I still talk to them and we’re still friends. Some people tried to angle it like there was a rift or something like getting along with some of the players or something like that. I think now the time has just proven the truth… and I just felt so happy I didn’t have to comment about anything. Everything is good. I’m going to have dinner again with some of my teammates after the game – my old teammates. Of course it’s emotional to come back and stuff, but when you change teams it couldn’t be better in any way the contact I have with them now.
But why was a trade necessary?It’s quite simple to be honest. What happened was, my contract was up now in November. And there was a lot of interest in me this summer so I just asked the club, so when are we going to negotiate my contract? In Europe you probably do that at least a year before it ends, and I was told 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, because if they pass I’m stuck by in the winter and I did that for Seattle and I said I need to make a decision. That’s how it ended up. There’s no hard feelings in any way, and then of course there became speculations, and Sigi, when I told him that, he wouldn’t let me train with the team, there became a lot of speculations. That’s something I’ll never understand, but that’s just part of it, and that’s just how it is.
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So is your contract situation the same in Chicago as it was here?Maybe not exactly the same to be honest, but I think they’ve been absolutely amazing in Chicago and they have future plans and all that stuff. I felt that if I wanted to stay in MLS I felt it was important just to sign for six months and see if everything was right and everything felt correct and then we make a decision after that. So you’re probably half right and probably half incorrect.
Why stay in America?I can say on thing, there was a very big club in Europe on the Champions League level that wanted me to join this summer, and that was kind of a hard decision for me because sometimes it tickles in your legs a little bit when you see the big games and you would like to play again. But I felt I’ve been in America, I promised the fans to help out and make the sport grow. The way Andrew spoke and pitched it when I came to Chicago and wants to go for it kind of thing – you see how New York is going for it at the moment, raise the level of the game here, I think that was something I wanted to keep on challenging and try to help as much as I can. And of course, Chicago is a great city and a great team.
How has the positive relationship survived the dispute? Business is business. That’s just how things works. If people are respectful and behaving the right way, there’s probably nothing ever interfere with the respect you have for that person. I liked them very much. I liked them when I played and I like them the same way I do now. That’s nothing that interferes with each other.
Ljungberg also talked about other issues, and I'll pop in with that part of the conversation in a few minutes.