There is bound to be backlash at literally ANY Designated Players signing, but I'm a bit surprised at the amount that the possibilities of Freddie Ljungberg and the response around the net.
This concern is both genuine and concerning. The genuine concern is over his health, because there are serious questions about it, questions that can not be answered until he takes the pitch again. Doctors could know, but likely not even Freddie himself would. You see, every player will insist that they are healthy unless they are truly useless.
But there are some illegitimate concerns.
Like that he's good looking, like that's a bad thing. Sure being an underwear model isn't the most manly thing, but you know what it does do?
It gains interest of the female set, you know, that group of people that are 51+% of the area's populace? That group that is a majority of fans of the Mariners? A financially stable club whose goal it is to be internationally recognized while playing in Anglo-America (sorry Montreal), will need the interest of female fans. A body like Ljungberg creates that initial interest. Seriously, my 5 seats would become 7 or 8 if a man like Ljungberg is on the team. Sure that's a small snapshot, but there are some reasons why the Galaxy sell out at home and have the highest road average in the league, and it isn't because of a 40 yard cross to a Donovan finish.
The Galaxy average 9,000 more seats at home, and 11,000 more sold on the road than the league average. Seattle is about to challenge their numbers anyway, but a player that can captivate non-soccer fans, let alone non-sports fans, can help advance that number. From a business perspective looking good isn't a detriment. Seattle Sounders FC gain if they get a player that generates interest from outside of the typical soccer fan demographic. Only two players do that, and one of them is available on a Free and the other is the third forward in Barcelona. Getting Thierry Henry is more difficult as he's in higher demand and has fewer injury questions. But both Thierry and Freddie are iconic figures outside of the sport, even if not known by name. I for one would be happy to average 25,000+ seats in year one, on the ROAD.
Others are so concerned about his injury history, and that he's a 31/32 year old player next year who is finished. They cite his poor performance less than three years ago with Arsenal. When in fact his final season was basically like his lower third seasons. A few goals, a few assists, good Premiership player on a great team. In 2006 Arsenal finishes second in the Euro and Sweden makes it out of the Group Phase of the World Cup with Ljungberg as the Captain. He chose to leave even though he was under contract, and he blames it on Arsenal losing other stars - to include Henry. That final season is also when his hip issues emerge.
His time with West Ham is marred with migraines and the hip issue, he appeared in less than 30 matches and rarely played full matches, but again the hip and the headaches. But are these why he left West Ham? Was it due to his play on the field? Or because of much larger issues facing WHU?
Like a bloated squad that caused several other starters to be loaned or sold? Anton Ferdinand being the biggest name, but they have a bloated squad with 39 players on the senior team. They don't have a shirt sponsor anymore and their primary owner's bank just caused the sovereign fund of Iceland to go bankrupt.
This is a team with serious issues that needed to cuts its financial and roster losses. It couldn't afford to pay a player to recover from injury and illness. It couldn't afford to watch Freddie not play.
Because he certainly needed a break, a few months for certain and maybe a life. One thing that Kasey Keller has made clear is that this is the first time in his adult life that he's had an extended break. Talking during the UW @ Portland men's match he said that he couldn't be in better health and that he's amazed how well the rest helped.
If Sounders FC signs Freddie Ljungberg, and signs are pointing to yes, they are hoping that the same rest will bring Seattle a player that is marketable off the pitch and who on the pitch scores every fifth match or so while being quite tactically aware with the ability to charge and run past defenders like very few in the league can do. He isn't a Nyassi who isn't good enough for Ghana, or MLS in 2008. This is a guy who at Nyassi's age was playing in Europe and for Sweden. If Sanna or Le Toux are as good as Ljungberg was at their current ages this team is pure gold. At 19 Freddie was a regular at Halmstead of Sweden, not a loanee to the USL. At 21 he signed with Arsenal for about 5 Million dollars. When he hit 24 he was scoring for Arsenal in the Premiership. Neither are good enough that as of now they would start for a Premiership or Italian club if healthy, and that's true for Freddie Ljungberg.
The question is not about his talent, nor his space on the potential roster. The only question is his health. Back in June AS Roma was interested in Ljungberg, but West Ham asked for too much cash and Roma went other directions. Maybe he found that taking time off (impossible for a European star in both league and national play) was the key to being revitalized.
If healthy there is potential for this free transfer to put up top 25 scoring numbers with top 15 assist numbers alongside. While he certainly isn't a Beckham, nor a Blanco, he would be a combination of the two in some ways with the ability to sell a few more seats and a few more shirts.
The real question is with only one DP slot should Sounders FC spend it on the hope that Freddie is Freddie?
Or are they betting that they will have more than one slot?
There are five slots that can be acquired. There were three teams that turned a profit in 2007 (LA, TFC, FCD). Two teams move into SSS next year and will make profits then (RSL and RedBullNY). DC United have use two-ish slots already, and the Fire would likely love another to go with Blanco. Are Sounders FC banking that the league will approve a change to allow more DPs in some manner because the league knows it makes more money as it gets more stars?
If Seattle has two DP slots using one on a flyer on Ljungberg is a pretty good move.
With only one, I do get a bit worried about his health, but in this case I would have to default to the doctors, the team and the player and not the concern of bloggers and posters on the interweb.