In an exclusive interview with Dexerto, Andreas ‘Xyp9x’ Højsleth says that he is currently weighing up his options. The ‘Clutch Minister’ has only a few months left on his contract with Astralis, his home since 2016.
Xyp9x is one of three players on Astralis with contracts running out at the end of the year, alongside Peter ‘dupreeh’ Rasmussen and Emil ‘Magisk’ Reif.
The Danish organization has yet to give any public indication as to whether it is planning to offer new deals to these three players, having so far only agreed to an extension with in-game leader Lukas ’gla1ve’ Rossander, who in July penned a three-year contract until the summer of 2024.
Rather than waiting to see where Astralis is sitting by the time his contract expires, Xyp9x decided to be proactive. He wants to see what the market bears before deciding on his future.
“I love Astralis, but I think now is a great opportunity to look around, see my options, and see what the future brings,” he told Dexerto. “There have been some talks with Astralis but nothing is set in stone. Everything is up in the air.
“I just know that I want to continue playing at the highest level. I can easily see myself using my skills and experience to build up a new successful unit or maybe help an established team take the next steps to the top.”
Xyp9x has been on Astralis’ books since the organization was created, in January 2016, playing a key role in the team’s journey to becoming the most successful side in the history of competitive Counter-Strike. They hold the record for the most Major titles, four, and are also the first team to have won three Majors back to back.
After two years of aggressive dominance of the Counter-Strike scene, Astralis hit a stumbling block in 2020. The team lost some of their luster and aura in the online era caused by the global health crisis, especially when Xyp9x and gla1ve both had to take medical leaves due to burnout. That summer, a report from Dexerto’s Richard Lewis shed light on the extent of the Danish organization’s problems.
Astralis brought back the Major-winning lineup for the final stretch of the season and finished the year on a high note, but the problems didn’t end there: In April, after a disappointing start to the season, Astralis sold star player Nicolai ‘device’ Reedtz to Ninjas in Pyjamas in a shock transfer deal. Last month, HLTV.org reported that head coach Danny ‘zonic’ Sørensen is weighing up his options as he enters the final months of his contract.
Xyp9x admits that things have never quite been the same since device left the team. “I thought we still could manage to win tournaments,” he says. “After that, as things progressed, I just didn’t see the same era [happening] again.
“I’m not saying that we can’t win tournaments with this lineup, but it’s certainly tougher and contracts are running out, so we have a short window to get everything fixed.
“Given the dynasty that we had for three years, almost winning everything, managing to win four Majors… There is a really long road.
“I think that when device left, that was when the era died, so to speak.”
Despite rumors suggesting that tension between the Astralis management and the teams continues to build as zonic and some of the players approach the end of their contracts, Xyp9x maintains that he has no underlying grievances with the organization.
“There is nothing about the organization that has led to this,” he says. “I’m only thinking about myself and where to win tournaments. That’s mainly where I put my focus. Any player would weigh up his options when his contract is about to end.
“We as a team created an era and I don’t have any bad feelings towards Astralis. They helped us get here with performance optimization, elevating us.
“But now it’s a different team and a different era. I think we can conclude that the first Astralis that I was part of is over.”
Some might be inclined to question Xyp9x’s motivation and hunger to succeed, given that he has won almost all there is to win in the Counter-Strike scene and that he has been competing at the top for almost a decade.
But the Danish player points to his performances at IEM Cologne – where he was Astralis’ best player with a 1.07 HLTV rating – as an indicator that he still has a lot to offer, especially as esports are sliding towards a return to normalcy and LAN events are becoming more frequent.
“I think I did a good job in Cologne,” he says. “When it comes to LAN, that’s where people get nervous but I become calm. It’s my home turf.
“I just don’t get nervous, like less experienced players tend to do. Hopefully, this COVID situation will soon be resolved or at least controlled so we can go out and play on LAN again because that’s where I feel my biggest strengths are.
“Organizations will also look at how people perform on LAN when we are to go back to that. In that sense, I have pretty good chances [of finding a new team].
“I want to prove myself that I’ve still got it, and I think I showed it in Cologne. It would be amazing to find those other four players, the coach and the organization, to win another Major with.
“I’m not done, I want to win more trophies.”
While talking to Xyp9x, one gets the sense of inevitability that he is about to close the book on this incredible chapter of his career. He goes through “a lot of emotions” when asked to reflect on the years he has spent competing under Astralis, a team that has defied all expectations and etched its name into the esports history books.
“Astralis have existed for six years now, and I’ve been there since the start,” he says. “We’ve always been a top team, but at least three or four years in the absolute top.
“We, the players, have become each other’s best friends and won everything we could dream of. And that’s just amazing to think back on, getting all the experience from winning and also developing as a person. It’s not just in the game but also on a personal level, you become more complete as a person.
“There are so many memories, and winning four Majors, which no one else has done, is quite outstanding.”
Xyp9x says that he is open to a change of scenery after years of playing for Danish teams. FaZe have been rumored as a potential suitor in recent weeks, but their interest may have cooled after a semi-final run at IEM Cologne.
“FaZe? There are lots of rumors,” he says. “There have been some talks with some teams, but I can’t go into detail about it.
“I’m looking for a team that is professional and has the experience to take the last steps to be among the best.
“Most North American teams are bootcamping a lot in Europe or are even staying here. It’s not something that I won’t consider.”
Whatever Xyp9x decides to do next, he still has a few months to run on his Astralis contract. He is one of only five still-active players who have attended all 15 CS:GO Majors, and he will be looking to add to that record later this year, at PGL Stockholm.
But questions remain about what Astralis are planning to do after recently signing Philip ‘Lucky’ Ewald, a promising Danish AWPer. Will the team juggle players in and out of the lineup or will the 18-year-old have to wait to get a shot?
Xyp9x is surprisingly cryptic when quizzed on the team’s plans.
“We haven’t finalized that,” he says. “That’s what I can say. But I think there is a surprise coming, which I can’t go further into. I’ll leave it at that.”