Part One: Sacha's Final Media Day
Former Chivas USA captain Sacha Kljestan, transferred to Belgium's Anderlecht last week, sat down with media for one last time Monday morning before leaving Wednesday morning to Europe. Below is Part One of the full transcript of that interview.
Question: How soon before you left [to sign in Belgium] did you know that Anderlecht was interested?
Kljestan: I had originally spoken with their general manager and president about a year and a half ago. They had wanted to put some bids in back then, but things did not work out. I had not heard from them for a long time, but from what they told me know, they have been following my career for a long time, and they have always been a club that I have been interested in from the first moment, and they said that I have been a player they have always been interested in. It is a relationship that fits together, and I think both sides are very happy.
Question: Do you know about Anderlecht? Do you like Anderlecht?
Kljestan: I have known about the club for a long time just from it being a champion in their country and always contending for the title. It has always been a goal of mine to play in Champions League, but I did not think the first club I would be going to in Europe would be a Champions League team. It had also been a goal of mine to start out in a smaller league and not go to one of the top five leagues in Europe because I would like to get a lot of playing time and really get used to Europe. In that aspect, I think that it is perfect.
Question: Did you talk to “Gooch” [Oguchi Onyewu] about Belgium?
Kljestan: Yes, a little bit. I had spoken to him about it a lot of times in the past, and he wrote to me three or four days ago, and said that he was very happy for me, and that Anderlecht was the best club to be at in Belgium, and at the end of the conversation, he said that we could not be friends anymore because I signed with his sworn enemy. That was the end of it.
Question: Is this move part of a master plan that you have?
Kljestan: Sometimes I think about a big plan and starting out at a club and working my way up to a bigger club, but life changes a lot, and at this point, I am just taking it as it is, and trying to get over there and settled with my girlfriend and everything. She is coming with, and it is an important part of her life as well to give up what she is doing here in LA to be a part of my life and to support me and support her. I think we are going to take it day by day and see how things go. I have been through a lot with my family that lives around here, and they have always been thankful for what I have been able to do, and for me to have a job here in LA that is an event every weekend so that they can come together and see my games was very special for them. It is difficult leaving them as well. A lot of my extended family went through tough times, and they always said that coming to my games was what made their lives special again. That’s tough as well, but they are all happy for me, and support me. It is one step at a time right now.
Question: When do you think it will hit you that you will not be able to go to the beach anymore?
Kljestan: I do not know. Everybody says it is going to be tough for me personally because I have been lucky enough to play in California for a long time, but I spent two-and-a-half years in New Jersey in the snow as well, and I like that. I have a lot of friends in Europe, and I think that life is going to be okay.
Question: You are good friends with Robbie [Rogers]. He probably told you about that part of Europe.
Kljestan: Yes, he has been there. Obviously, [Brad] Guzan is just a train ride away in London and Charlie [Davies] is pretty close in France. And Matt Taylor, I saw him yesterday, and he is down in Frankfurt, which is pretty close as well. We have a lot of guys I can count on when I want to spend friend-time over there.
Question: How much do you know about the current Anderlecht team?
Kljestan: A little bit. I have been trying to read-up and watch a lot of highlights as much as I can. They had a very successful season in their league. They were by far the best team and dominant, and in the Europa League, I think they went to the quarterfinals, which was a pretty big success as well. They have a lot of talented players. I know they already sold a couple of players in this window, and signed four including me. I am going to be going in and fighting for a starting spot right away, and I hope to be in the lineup from the first game of the season.
Question: What did they tell you about what they liked about you?
Kljestan: I met with the coach for a couple of hours and sat with him, and he was a really nice guy. He just talked to me not just about football but also about life, and seemed like a really good person. I know the general manager, who has been trying to sign me for a long time, had told me that he liked my mentality and my athletic ability in order to be able to run up and down the field the whole game, so I think they see me as more of a box-to-box midfielder that helps control the game and makes a lot of off-the-ball runs as well.
Question: That is coming from the GM, not the coach. Is that a little concerning?
Kljestan: Maybe, but I know that the coach and general manager have a vey close relationship, and have worked together for a long time. The coach told me what the general manager sees in you I see as well. I am going to have to go in and prove myself no matter what, even if they are signing me to be the star of the team, which they are probably not. Even if they were, I still feel I have to prove myself as if I am nobody. I am going to go in there with my head down and work super hard and try to make myself into the lineup.”
Question: What part of your decision was based on based on not being chosen for the US national team?
Kljestan: Not my decision really. Maybe it made things a little easier for me to leave. I have always had a dream of playing in Europe, and soccer careers are pretty short. You want to make the most money while you can. This was a great offer to not only play for a pretty big club historically but a Champions League team and have a good contract for some security later in life. A lot of things went into it, but overall I think it was a pretty easy decision.
Question: Will leaving [MLS] increase your chances of playing in the World Cup?
Kljestan: I think so. I still have a huge goal of playing in the World Cup in 2014. It was really sad and disappointing to miss out on this, but I was told when one door closes, another one opens. Another door opened a week later after having the heartbreak of not going to this World Cup. Who knows? Maybe if I went to the World Cup this move would not have happened this summer. Everything happens for a reason, and I am very excited about getting over there and hopefully increasing my chances of going to the 2014 World Cup.
Question: On the roster for the World Cup, there are a lot of players who started in the MLS and went on to play in Europe, and very few players directly from the MLS. Was that a statement for you that it was a good place to start but you had to go higher?
Kljestan: Maybe. I think it depends on the coach, and sometimes it depends on the situation. With this team, Bob selected a lot of guys that play in Europe because he likes that experience. Obviously, I think the MLS is still getting better and is still a good league, and a good spot for young players to play every weekend. I have been lucky for the last four-and-a-half years to play every weekend and get a lot of games under my belt. I think it was the time to go, and I think it will increase my chances of getting more time with the national team.
Question: It was disappointing that the national team did not pick you up so you could take that next step. It seemed like you were ready.
Kljestan: It was a tough situation coming back from that. You try to not get your hopes up, but it just happens, and you cannot really change things that happen and the way that you feel. Having said that, I was lucky to come in every weekend and play games and stay game-fit, and try to help the team win that I have played with for a long time, but I think I have felt ready for about a year now.
Question: How much higher is your ceiling?
Kljestan: I do not know. I was just thinking about that yesterday. Am I going to become some superb player now that I am playing on a Champions League team with better players around me? I do not know what is going to happen. I do not want to put pressure on myself to set a goal for myself and maybe not reach it. I am just going to get over there and take it day-by-day, and see what it is like. But I am sure that as soon as I start playing some games and maybe start feeling some success, I am going to have that drive in me to continue to reach higher.