The Socceroo behind Ken Ilso's Adelaide United adventure

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Adelaide have an Aussie to thank for their latest Danish recruit

From the Eredivisie and Bundesliga to stints in China, Singapore and Malaysia, Adelaide United's new Danish signing Ken Ilso is certainly a well-travelled footballer.

The 31-year-old attacker will now call Australia home for the next year after being sold on the A-League by a number of past teammates.

Socceroo Robbie Kruse, who began his career with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory before moving to Germany, just one of those that convinced Ilso to head Down Under.

"I’ve had a lot of Aussie mates during my career, for example Robbie Kruse and Zac Anderson in Malaysia," Ilso told Goal.

"I've talked to them about the A-League and always wanted to come this side of planet earth.

"The opportunity came and I took it."

Ken Ilso Adelaide United

Opportunities are something Ilso has always been good at taking both on and off the football pitch.

Whether it's scoring in a Malaysian FA Cup final, starting a law degree while in Singapore or making his debut as a 17-year-old in the Eredivisie with SC Heerenveen - the Dane knows how to make the most of his chances.

After cutting his teeth in the Netherlands as a teenager, Ilso returned to Denmark in search of regular football.

"At that time I just stuck my foot into the pond...had no idea what being a professional footballer was really about," he said.

"I’d been away for two and a half years and learned a lot of stuff but felt I needed to be playing at a senior professional level.

"Realised it was better to step one level down to step two up."

That philosophy has served Ilso well throughout a career that would eventually take him to the Bundesliga with Fortuna Düsseldorf where he crossed paths with a young Kruse.

Sealing promotion to the top-flight after a tense play-off against Hertha Berlin with 50,000 fans watching on in 2012, Ilso was forced to pinch himself.

Ken Ilso Bochum

But as is often the case in cut-throat European competition, Ilso and Fortuna would come crashing back down next season after being relegated in another play-off.

One final season in Germany would await with VfL Bochum before the Dane found himself outside of Europe for the first time after signing for Chinese Super League side Guangzhou R&F.

Despite scoring two goals across 10 appearances, Ilso struggled with life off the pitch in China and decided to move on after a short stay.

"I had a time in China which was very up and down," he explains. 

"Never really got to realise my full potential while I was there.

"In China I had an experience where I was very much alone. I had absolutely nobody to speak English around.

"It was really difficult to blend into the team and actually spent quite a lot of nights alone without much of a connection to the team. It was hard for me."

Needing a bit of a break, Ilso moved to Singapore linking up with a former club doctor and playing for Home United

After scoring 36 goals across just 52 appearances, Ilso attracted the attention of Malaysian side Kedah where he continued to star but in front of far more people.

"In Malaysia when we played the FA Cup final there were 80,000 people watching," he said.

"They are completely insane about football. I’d go from a Singaporean Cup final with maybe two or three thousand people to playing an FA Cup in Malaysia with 80,000."

Despite the bigger crowd, Ilso didn't shy away from the big occasion as he scored and claimed an assist in a 3-2 win.

His time in Malaysia would however end on a sour note after moving to Penang with a number of issues spoiling his move.

"Malaysia sometimes it’s not always reliable getting salary on time and stuff like that," Ilso said.

"Mostly my time in Penang was chaos. I went there with this project in sight and it got sort of demolished in about two weeks when suddenly everyone that brought me to the club decided to leave."

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That drama has however lead him to greener pastures in Adelaide where he's looking to fill the shoes left by the Reds last Danish star Johan Absalonsen. 

Under the guidance of Marco Kurz and attempting to make the most of an admittedly long pre-season, Ilso appears ready to hit the ground running in his latest adventure abroad. 

Dubbed the 'Danish Zlatan' by fans, Ilso is certainly one to keep an eye on this season. 

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