Freddie Ljungberg insists his move to the Seattle Sounders team in US Major League Soccer is more than a tasty payday. The former Sweden international, who played nine seasons with Arsenal, was released by West Ham in the off-season, just one year into a four-year deal. Ljungberg's final seasons at Arsenal and his only season at West Ham were blighted by a succession of injuries, but the 31-year-old says he can still provide value for Seattle, which enters the MLS next season.
The former Swedish national team captain signed a multiyear deal with the Sounders, although only a small portion of his salary will count against the team's salary cap. According to reports Ljungberg will be paid $2.5m (£1.6m) per year. "I felt if I was going to do this, it's a sincere thing, and really help the people over here with soccer, I should go now," Ljungberg said. "I shouldn't go in three years' time when I'm past my peak."
Ljungberg was a star midfielder for nine seasons with Arsenal as the team won two league titles and three FA Cups. He was recently voted No 11 in Arsenal's top 50 players of all time.
But late in his Arsenal career, and last season with West Ham, Ljungberg became injury-prone and his attractiveness to the top clubs in Europe appeared to diminish. He put some of those concerns to rest by captaining Sweden at Euro 2008, but the Swedes failed to advance out of their group.
Ljungberg was signed as Seattle's designated player whose pay does not count under the salary cap. The rule was introduced ahead of the 2007 season, allowing Los Angeles to sign former England captain David Beckham.
Hollywood film producer and director Joe Roth, who is the majority owner of the Sounders, said he initially was not going to sign a designated player, but changed his mind when Ljungberg became available.