Aiden O’Neill seals big move to Belgian giants Standard Liege: Full details

Aiden O’Neill is the latest player to move to Belgium’s top flight after the Melbourne City star joined Standard Liege on a four-season contract.

O’Neill, who is on international duty with the Socceroos for Thursday’s blockbuster against Lionel Messi’s Argentina in China, had long been tipped to reunite with Patrick Kisnorbo at Troyes in France but he has signed a four-year contract in the Belgian Pro League.

It means a return to Europe for the 24-year-old after he emerged from Burnley’s youth team in 2016 and made three Premier League appearances before leaving The Clarets in 2020. He spent three years at City, winning three straight Isuzu UTE A-League Premierships and a Championship in 2021.

“Aiden is a player we’ve been watching for a long time. His game intelligence, his ball skills and his experience as an Australian international will make him a major asset for our midfield,” said the club’s director of football Fergal Harkin.

“We are particularly looking forward to welcoming him.”

He is set to face former City teammate and current Socceroos compatriot Jordan Bos next season after the latter became the record outbound transfer from Australia upon confirmation of his $2million switch to KVC Westerlo in Belgium.

O’Neill will also follow in the footsteps of fellow former Adelaide United head coach Aurelio Vidmar and current Western United boss John Aloisi, who all played for Standard Liege. Vidmar enjoyed a successful season in 1994-95, claiming the Golden Boot as the club finished runners-up to Anderlecht.

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“They really do look at Australia for players coming and wanting to make that switch to Europe, which I’m incredibly excited to be doing again,” O’Neill told KEEPUP.

“That was my aim coming to City in the A-League – to improve as a player and go back over and show them what I’ve got. See how far I can take my football career.”

O’Neill’s Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold also played in Belgium with RFC Liege and Standard Liege’s rivals Royal Charleroi.

“I gave Arnie a call a few days before I’d signed my contract and he was really excited by the opportunity. He basically said go for it,” he added.

The Australia international had established himself as one the Isuzu UTE A-League’s best players during his time with City in Melbourne.

After a loan spells at Central Coast Mariners (2018-19) and Brisbane Roar (2019-20), O’Neill joined City permanently in 2020 and he did not look back.

He came into his own in 2022-23 following Connor Metcalfe’s move to St Pauli in Germany’s 2.Bundesliga and his performances earned a Socceroos debut against Ecuador in March.

O’Neill scored a joint-career high four goals in 27 appearances as City reached the Grand Final but lost 6-1 to the Mariners earlier this month.

Standard Liege – owned by 777 Partners, the private investment firm which also has a stake in Melbourne Victory – finished sixth in 2022-23, behind champions Royal Antwerp.

It will be a new-look outfit next season, however, after former Celtic manager Ronny Deila left to take charge of rivals Club Brugge.

Standard Liege have not won the league since 2008-09, while their last piece of silverware came via the 2017-18 Belgian Cup.