Perth Glory star Chris Ikonomidis says he’s a mentally stronger player now than the last time he played for the Caltex Socceroos and believes his playing style is perfect for Graham Arnold’s attacking philosophy.
The Glory attacker was on Thursday named in Australia’s 23-player squad for next month’s AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Ikonomidis’ selection is a reward for his stunning form in the Hyundai A-League this season, where he has scored five goals and provided two assists for the table-topping Glory.
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The 23-year-old, who left Serie A club Lazio at the end of last season, admits he took a risk to join the Glory but it’s paid off massively with his form and Caltex Socceroos recall.
“Mentally I’ve grown a lot with the boss [Tony Popovic] here at Perth Glory,” Ikonomidis told reporters on Thursday.
“He’s helped me to learn new positions, I can play across the front three which is a great asset to have in modern football.
“Learning to play the no.10 role or as a winger or a striker and ending up with the same results in scoring and assisting is probably the greatest thing I’ve added to my game in the last six months.
“I took it [Socceroos selection] into consideration when picking my next destination,” the Sydney-born winger added.
“Getting back here and playing good, scoring goals and getting back into the Socceroo boss’ face every week. That was part of the plan and I’m very happy that it happened.”
Ikonomidis said he owed a lot to Glory’s coaching staff – and in particular Popovic – for selling the Glory vision to him earlier this year.
Asked how Popovic convinced him to leave Italy and return to the Hyundai A-League, Ikonomidis said: “[Popa] said coming to me I can guarantee you will enjoy playing football again.
“I’ll give you all the tools to go on the pitch and show yourself to Socceroos selectors, show yourself to bigger clubs, but I’ll guarantee you will come back and enjoy your football and when you enjoy your football you play better.”
Arnold has chosen a pacy, attack-minded squad for Australia’s AFC Asian Cup title defence, including the likes of Awer Mabil, Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout, Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse.
“He [Arnold] wants to play a really attacking, attractive brand of football with quick attackers going one-on-one and guys who like to get in the box and score goals,” Ikonomidis said.
“Thankfully for me that’s my game.
“I’m really excited to get into camp with him and the new team because I think I can bring something new to them and they can definitely help me improve a lot.”
Before Ikonomidis joins up with the Caltex Socceroos squad, he’ll play in Perth Glory’s huge Hyundai A-League clash against Sydney FC on Friday night.