From left field: five of the Hyundai A-League’s best under the radar signings

The Hyundai A-League has been gripped by a clutch of big name arrivals in recent years.

This season, Keisuke Honda, Ola Toivonen, Siem de Jong and Adam Le Fondre are but a few big names that have arrived Down Under with much fanfare.

But everyone loves a diamond pulled from the rough – a player that arrives with a little-known CV before establishing themselves as a consistent Hyundai A-League performer.

In this article, we recount five players who have done exactly that.

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Few had heard of Sabadell-born midfielder Isaias Sanchez when the Spaniard signed for Adelaide United in July 2013.

A former Badalona youth product and La Liga debutant with Espanyol, Isaias ran out his last playing days in native Spain on loan with Segunda Division outfit Ponferradina.

The midfielder's fledgling career in Spain was largely spent on the first-team fringes, but he would soon become the beating heart and inspirational captain of Adelaide United.

The 31-year-old is still the centrepiece of the Reds’ midfield and has claimed Adelaide’s player of the season award in three of his five seasons in Australia, as well as guiding the side to their maiden Championship triumph thanks to a Joe Marston Medal-winning performance in the 2015/16 Grand Final.

Youssouf Hersi

Understandably, the arrival of flying Dutchman Youssouf Hersi at Western Sydney Wanderers for the club’s inaugural season in 2012 was overshadowed by that of Shinji Ono.

But in the following two seasons for the Red and Black, Hersi and the Japanese star would play equally important parts in the Wanderers' early Hyundai A-League success.

The former Ajax product became an unsung hero in the club’s maiden season, where he would set an Australian footballing record for the most consecutive league wins for player (14).

Hersi was unable to replicate his Wanderers form when he moved to Perth Glory in 2014, but his role in helping the Red and Black burst onto the Hyundai A-League scene should not be overlooked.


Roy Krishna

Roy Krishna received his Hyundai A-League break as an injury replacement signing for Paul Ifill in January 2014.

Filling the shoes of a Wellington Phoenix legend like Ifill over the short term was no small task for the Fijian flyer.

But it was one that Krishna has since passed emphatically, and the Phoenix frontman is arguably close to reaching Ifill-like levels of importance for the New Zealanders.

Krishna will likely bring up a century of Hyundai A-League appearances at the New Zealand capital this season, and his attacking return of 32 goals and 21 assists in 94 matches is a record that stands alongside the competition's elite forwards.

Iacopo La Rocca

Another unsung hero in Western Sydney Wanderers’ early Hyundai A-League success, Iacopo La Rocca’s career had been spent in the lower tiers of Italian football and the Swiss Super League before his arrival in Australia.

But the Italian midfielder has since carved out a reputation as one of the Hyundai A-League’s most reliable and versatile performers from either defence or midfield.

The 34-year-old’s heroic performance in the Wanderers’ Grand Final defeat to Brisbane in 2013/14 will go down in Hyundai A-League Grand Final folklore, with the Italian sharing the Joe Marston Medal with Roar legend Thomas Broich.

Overall, La Rocca has made 100 Hyundai A-League appearances for Western Sydney, current club Melbourne City and former employers Adelaide United, with whom he helped claim the Premiership and Championship double in 2015/16.

Iacopo La Rocca and Oriol Riera

Steven Ugarkovic            

Steven Ugarkovic returned to Newcastle Jets with minimal fanfare in 2016.

Fast forward two years and the 24-year-old midfielder found himself as the unheralded driving force of Newcastle’s remarkable Hyundai A-League 2017/18 campaign.

There are few players in Australia’s top tier who have successfully gone about their business as stealthily as the Baulkham Hills-born midfielder, who has started 63 of his total 65 matches with the Jets.

If the unsung Jet continues his sensational form for Ernie Merrick’s side in the upcoming season, his re-signing for the Novocastrians two years ago might just resemble a masterstroke.

Steven Ugarkovic