Watch: De Jong - How the Hyundai A-League made me a better player
He has played in the English Premier League and experienced international football for the Netherlands, but Siem de Jong admits the Hyundai A-League has made him a better player.
De Jong joined Sydney FC at the start of 2018/19 on a season-long loan from Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam.
It was seen as a huge coup for the Sky Blues, adding a player of such immense pedigree who has won multiple honours in Holland and played at the very top level for more than a decade.
But it has also been a valuable move for de Jong.
The 30-year-old attacking midfielder rates the Hyundai A-League as “very similar” to the Eredivisie in his native country, and feels his first season with the Sky Blues has taken his game to another level.
“It’s good, it’s competitive. It’s a tough league to play in – it’s quite physical, quite direct, it goes up and down and for me that was a good thing,” said de Jong in the video above of playing in the Hyundai A-League.
I wanted to come here and improve my physical part of the game, my physique.
“Playing the games here helps me going forward and hopefully I can play another few years at a good level.”
How does the Hyundai A-League compare to Europe?
It’s a question often asked of the Hyundai A-League’s best imports and de Jong has no doubt the Australian game stacks up favourably, especially with his homeland.
“The A-League is a competitive league. The Eredivisie is quite similar. In Holland it’s more a league of younger players, because you have a lot of competition from the big clubs in Europe, so a lot of good players will eventually be sold to other leagues,” he said.
“That happens here as well. You have good players growing up here, and playing here, but eventually the big leagues will come looking for them here and draw them away.
“But it’ll be good for Australian football. The league is getting stronger and hopefully, it will get better over the coming years as well.
The [English] Premier League is a really tough league – really physical. If you look at the way we play here it is quite similar, quite direct and quite physical as well.“
De Jong is not the only high-profile foreigner to have joined the Hyundai A-League this season, with the likes of Ola Toivonen and Keisuke Honda enjoying excellent campaigns with Melbourne Victory.
“It’s good for the league to have a few foreign players coming here and maybe help lift the league up and set the stage for more players coming from Europe or wherever,” de Jong admitted.
“That’ll help the young players here to get better and that will be good for everybody.”
Unfinished business with the Sky Blues
De Jong has endured an injury-plagued campaign for Steve Corica’s side but the former Ajax skipper has shown glimpses of his undoubted quality.
In 14 games in the Hyundai A-League, de Jong has scored four goals and had two assists to have the Sky Blues in second spot heading into the final two rounds of the regular season.
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While top-spot is out of reach after Perth Glory wrapped up the Premiership on the weekend, de Jong feels that if Sydney FC can get things right in the finals they can go all the way
We had a pretty good season, a few ups and downs, but eventually we're ready [for] going into the finals.
"If you look at the league, Perth have done a good job this season so they'll be one of the favourites," he said. "We've played them, they're a tough side to beat, but so are we.
"Melbourne Victory did well. We've played them a few times and they were tough games as well. We'll be up there with those teams, and hopefully we'll win it in the end."
Asked about his highlights in Australia so far, de Jong said: "The highlights are still to come, I hope.
“At the end of the season I hope we'll win the Grand Final – that's what I am here for, to win prizes. So hopefully we'll have that at the end of the season."