The 2021 League of Legends free agency period has been shocking in many ways, but perhaps the most shocking move is Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg’s return to professional play, leaving his home org, TSM, behind. On Wednesday, Bjergsen officially announced he will join Team Liquid as their starting mid laner for 2022.
The 2020 offseason brought us some great surprises, like Martin “Rekkles” Larsson leaving Fnatic and Luka “Perkz” Perković leaving G2 Esports, as well as the retirement of two TSM stars, Yiliang “Peter” “Doublelift” Peng and Bjergsen himself.
But, this offseason took all of last year’s wild and wacky changes and doubled down on them. When Perkz left Cloud9, it was reported that he was unable to sign to Fnatic based on a clause between G2 and C9. Rekkles nearly went teamless before eventually joining Karmine Corp in the French league. Meanwhile, Bjergsen left his TSM-shaped home to join his biggest competitor.
Bjergsen’s return to pro play
In 2020, Bjergsen, who had part-ownership of TSM, retired after nearly a decade of professional play. He then became the head coach of his longtime team, an org where he’d spent the last seven years of his playing career. A year later, he’s returning to professional play with a rival org.
“I kind of just remembered and realized how much I missed it,” Bjergsen said. But, even after TSM failed to make this year’s League of Legends World Championship, it wasn’t his initial plan for 2022.
“Going into this offseason, as I started playing the game a lot more and even watching [Worlds], I was watching the games a lot more in the perspective of like, ‘Oh, if I’m in the game, what would I say? What would I do? What would I communicate?'” Bjergsen said. “It just made me want to be in the game that much more.”
It wasn’t some elaborate plan, to take a year off and then return. The 25-year-old Denmark native just felt like it was right to do so.
“I’m just kind of following my passion,” he said. “I don’t really have a like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go coach this year, and then I’m gonna go back to playing.’ I really just like competition.”
While it wasn’t premeditated, it also wasn’t a snap decision. Bjergsen thought about his return to play, and eventual decision to leave TSM for another team, a lot.
“I didn’t even really come into the offseason set on playing,” he said. “I was looking at both opportunities: coaching and playing.”
He also thought about staying on TSM, and if not, whether he’d return to Europe or stay in Los Angeles, his home for the last eight years.
“I did a lot of thinking between LEC and LCS,” Bjergsen said. “It was the thing that I had to think about the most in the offseason. How would I feel going to LEC and potentially moving to Berlin versus staying in LA?” He continued, explaining that even though Los Angeles “does feel like a home to me now,” if a European team gave him his best offer, he’d have taken it. “Otherwise, I feel like I’m kind of cheating like, my competitive spirit.”
Luckily, for his fans in North America — and unfortunately, for those who wished to see his return to the League of Legends European Championship — Bjergsen ended up with a two-year contract on Team Liquid.
Leaving TSM behind
Despite his storied history with TSM, including six domestic championships, four nods as MVP of the league and five trips to the League of Legends World Championship, Bjergsen was open to moving on in 2022. He decided to do just that and let his former squad rebuild.
“I think that it can kind of stunt your growth if you’re in the same place for too long,” Bjergsen said. “I’ve been there for just so long, and I think change is healthy.”
In Bjergsen’s eight years with the team, he went from a somewhat unknown European mid, to superstar North American talent, to revered team leader with an untouchable legacy, to head coach. Now, he has closed that chapter of his life to join the org that dethroned TSM as the No. 1 squad in the LCS years ago.
“You have to weigh how this loyalty compares to just really wanting to win,” Bjergsen said. “If there is a better option, are you going to take it? Or are you going to stay because you really believe in the management and the direction of the org?”
For Bjergsen, at least in his return to professional play this offseason, his most deep loyalty is to his desire to be the best.
“I just really want to win. I liked my time at TSM; I like the people at TSM,” he said. “But if there is a team elsewhere that’s going to be better, that’s going to increase my chances of winning, that’s where I wanted to go.”
“It just felt like a natural time to move on if a better opportunity presented itself,” he said. “I think the competitive drive, I’m always gonna lean more towards that.”
Though he expressed that he had a lot of “loyalty and gratefulness towards TSM,” for signing him eight years ago, the competitor in him held nothing back. Bjergsen now looks forward to what will likely be his first game back in the LCS this January and the opportunity to beat the team he’d held together for so long.
“I just want to destroy them,” he said plainly. “I would be so upset if I lost to TSM, so I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s gonna be really fun.”
Team Liquid Bjergsen: joining a rival org
Three years ago, Liquid were the team to stop TSM’s consistent domestic dominance and begin a trophy-winning run of their own. With four consecutive LCS titles from Spring 2018 to Summer 2019, Liquid built a reputation as the best team in North America and looks like a favorite to compete for that title in 2022 with the addition of former Fnatic star Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau in the top lane and Rogue’s Steven “Hans sama” Liv in the bot lane.
Liquid owner Steve Arhancet also brought back starters Lucas “Santorin” Kilmer Larsen in the jungle and former world champion support Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in.
“I think both on the organization and the roster front, Team Liquid is the obvious best choice for me,” Bjergsen said.
Bjergsen was was likely the best choice for Team Liquid as well. After winning four titles in a row, and each split in 2018 and 2019, Team Liquid have now lost the last four in a row, from 2020 through 2021, one of which went to Bjergsen in his last split on TSM.
“TL invested in a really strong roster coming into the 2021 season,” Bjergsen said. “They picked up Barney ‘Alphari’ Morris and Lucas ‘Santorin’ Larsen, and they still weren’t able to win a championship or get out of groups.”
That’s something both he and Liquid hope to change in 2022.
“I have learned not to get ahead of myself,” he said, “but I really just want to — at the very minimum — win LCS. Ideally spring and summer, but just get a trophy.”
If they do, and especially if they win both, this could be the rebirth of Team Liquid and alongside Bjergsen and the start of the next part of his and Liquid’s LCS legacy. With the rest of the roster around the legendary mid, it could very well be their year.
“I’m really surprised with how good the pieces are that we were able to get,” Bjergsen said on the rest of his 2022 roster, noting that he was “working with Kang ‘Dodo’ Jun-hyeok and Steve pretty much from the beginning on both roster and coaching staff.”
“I don’t know how we’re able to get Steven ‘Hans sama’ Liv, but the guy’s so good. I obviously really wanted to play with CoreJJ. I played against him for so long. And — no offense to my [past] supports — he’s always outperforming my support,” he said, laughing. “I’ve just always wanted to play with him. And this is my opportunity to do that.”
He later went on to talk about his topside of the map, with his former teammate, Santorin, flanking him in the jungle and Bwipo setting up camp in the top lane.
“Santorin was a really key piece in [FlyQuest] performing so well,” he said. “Santorin is someone I played with a long time ago, but he’s changed so much. … We’ve been playing a lot of duo queue together in the offseason, so we’ve been talking about just pretty much everything under the sun. And it’s also nice having a fellow Danish guy on the team.
“Bwipo’s a great player with a great mind for the game. He was able to swap to jungle and perform at a high level. I think he was always a top-performing top laner, and from every conversation that I’ve had with him, he seems really intelligent about the game and really, really dedicated. I’m excited to work with him.”
With all this firepower around him, Bjergsen said he was grateful that Liquid signed him in the first place.
“I wouldn’t have even put it over Liquid if they would have rather kept Nicolaj ‘Jensen’ Jensen than play me, because I think he’s a really good player,” Bjergsen said. “We have slightly different strengths, I would say, but I always considered him the person to beat for me.
“I have a lot of respect for Jensen, and I hope I get to play against him. I think it’d be crazy if he’s not in LCS,” he said, referencing the rumor that LCS teams haven’t yet picked him up. “If they’re choosing other players over Jensen, I think that’s crazy.”
Looking back and pushing forward
“The thing that people always ask me is like, whether I should have gone back to LEC,” Bjergsen said. “That’s probably the biggest ‘What if?’ on my mind. I would have liked to see like an alternate timeline of me going back to LEC and comparing where we would both end up today. But obviously, that’s not possible. So it’ll just be there for me to ponder.”
Instead, Bjergsen re-signed with TSM. Then, he re-signed with them again. After one last LCS title, he retired. Now, Bjergsen is joining the team that put a stop to the dynasty he helped create on TSM. We see the return of the “One King,” Bjergsen, on a path toward a string of titles with Team Liquid.
“TSM was my home for so long,” he said. “I want to just put them in the ground.”