1000 reasons to get excited: Hyundai A-League players from Europe’s big five

There’s no doubt about it – there’ll be some serious talent running around in the upcoming Hyundai A-League 2018/19 campaign.

That is evidenced by the fact the competition will contain a collection of players who combine for over 1000 appearances across Europe’s top five divisions.

With so many high-calibre players travelling from Europe to ply their trade in Australia, the Hyundai A-League could be set to scale unprecedented heights of quality and entertainment in the upcoming season.

In this article, we take the league’s biggest names under the microscope and explore their past in Europe’s big five: England’s Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga and France’s Ligue 1.

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Premier League

From the days of Dwight Yorke to Emile Heskey and William Gallas, the Hyundai A-League has seen a host of big names arrive from England’s top tier.

This season, there will be 12 players who have strutted their stuff on the hallowed Premier League turf.

Headlining a new raft of former Premier League arrivals is ex-Newcastle United hard man Steven Taylor, who signed on at Wellington Phoenix in pre-season.

Taylor made close to 200 Premier League appearances in total for the Magpies in a career that spanned well over a decade.

Steven Taylor and Cristiano Ronaldo
Premier League veteran Steven Taylor.

The 32-year-old Englishman will be joined in Australia by former Newcastle United teammate and Sydney FC marquee Siem de Jong.

A long run of injury misfortune prevented the Dutchman from showing his true quality at St. James’ Park, with de Jong only running out 22 times in the Premier League.

De Jong’s Harbour City teammate Adam Le Fondre also endured a short-lived stay in the Premier League, but left some mark on the competition in his 2012/13 campaign with Reading.

Le Fondre’s Reading would ultimately be relegated, but not before their chief marksman rifled in 12 goals at a remarkable rate of a goal per 124 minutes.

From relegation to the biggest prize itself – the Hyundai A-League will be graced by a former Premier League winner this season in Ritchie De Laet, who has featured 47 times in the top flight and earned his winner’s medal with Leicester City in 2015/16.

Other former Premier League alumni include Brett Holman (27 appearances for Aston Villa), Jason Davidson (two appearances for West Bromwich Albion), Neil Kilkenny (18 appearances for Birmingham City), Kalifa Cisse (22 appearances for Reading), Roy O'Donovan (17 appearances for Sunderland), Andy Keogh (13 games and one goal for Wolves), Aiden O’Neill (3 appearances for Burnley) and Ola Toivonen (12 appearances for Sunderland).

Adam Le Fondre scores his second goal in Reading's 2-2 draw against Chelsea
Adam Le Fondre scored 12 Premier League goals for Reading.

Serie A

Although Keisuke Honda never truly hit his potential at AC Milan, the Japanese star racked up a healthy 81 appearances at the San Siro.

Honda scored nine goals and registered 10 assists in Italy’s top flight before moving to Mexican club Pachucha.

He’s not the only Melbourne Victory playmaker boasting top tier experience in Italy, with James Troisi running out six times for Atalanta.

Sydney FC lynchpin Josh Brillante also has three Serie A caps to his name thanks to stints with Fiorentina and Empoli.

Honda made 81 appearances for Milan, scoring nine goals.
Honda made 81 appearances for Milan, scoring nine goals.

La Liga

There’s been a recent influx of Spanish footballers in Australia, and that trend continued when Brisbane Roar signed former Celta Vigo midfielder Alex Lopez late last month.

The 30-year-old ran out 89 times in Spain’s top flight for Celta before landing in Queensland via stints at Sheffield Wednesday, Real Valladolid and Sporting Gijon.

Oriol Riera has proven quite the Hyundai A-League hit since his signing for the Western Sydney Wanderers at the start of last campaign.

Riera made his senior professional debut for Barcelona in the Spanish Cup before trotting out for Osasuna and Deportivo La Coruna for a total of 102 La Liga caps.

Perth Glory’s Spanish wizard Diego Castro also honed his craft throughout 226 La Liga appearances, carving out careers with Malaga, Getafe and Sporting Gijon.

The other former La Liga players in the Hyundai A-League are Adelaide duo Baba Diawara (30 appearances: Sevilla, Getafe, Levante) and Isaias (4 appearances for Espanyol).

Lopez
Alex Lopez has proven pedigree in La Liga.

Bundesliga

Mirko Boland made 33 Bundesliga appearances for Eintracht Braunschweig but was unable to keep them up in 2013/14.

An injury-hit period for Dario Vidosic prevented the attacker from reaching great heights while at Nuremberg, where he made 31 showings in the German top flight across three campaigns.

Similarly, Tobias Mikkelsen couldn’t bring his goal scoring form in the Danish Superliga over to Germany when he made six appearances for SpVgg Greuther Fürth in 2012/13.

Western Sydney Wanderers centre half Patrick Ziegler was also in the top flight for a single season, making 27 run outs for Paderborn in 2014/15 after helping the club achieve promotion.

Ziegler's Wanderers teammate Alex Baumjohann played in the Bundesliga for three different clubs - Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin - while victory defender Georg Niedermeier had a distinguished career in the German top flight with Vfb Stuttgart.

Boland
Boland in action for Eintracht Braunschweig.

Ligue 1

Eric Bautheac traversed the pastures of Dijon, Nice, and Lille in over 172 Ligue 1 appearances before joining Brisbane Roar last season.

The gifted attacking midfielder offered returns of 26 goals and 25 assists throughout his time in native France before linking up with John Aloisi’s men.

Sydney FC is where Milos Ninkovic calls home, but he was formerly on the books of Ligue 1 outfit Evian, where he made 32 appearances in two seasons.

Like Siem de Jong, Ola Toivonen’s best work arrived in Holland’s Eredivisie but the new Victory front man played out a strong career in France, appearing 102 times and firing away 21 goals for Stade Rennais and Toulouse before joining up with Kevin Muscat’s side for the upcoming 2018/19 campaign.

Ola Toivonen