Michael Thwaite has spent the past year playing in the cashed-up Chinese Super League (CSL) but believes the A-League is stronger structurally and tactically.
The 13-time Socceroo joined Liaoning Whowin in January, playing 25 games and helping the club avoid relegation in 2016.
The 33-year-old has another year on his Liaoning contract but is now back in Australia enjoying time off with his family on the Gold Coast.
Thwaite regularly came up against top quality opponents following the cash splurge from Chinese clubs on foreign talent such as Ezequiel Lavezzi, Graziano Pelle and Alex Teixeira.
Given the number of current Socceroos plying their trade in China, including Matt Spiranovic, Trent Sainsbury and Ryan McGowan, the quality of the league is regularly discussed in Australia.
Thwaite is well placed to compare the two leagues, having spent eight years in the A-League with Perth Glory, Gold Coast United and Melbourne Victory before his taste of the CSL.
“To be honest, structurally the A-League is better than China,” Thwaite told FourFourTwo.
“Structurally and tactically it’s a bit hectic in China. It opens up very quickly.
“In the A-League it might open up in the last 30 minutes of the game.
“They’re still trying to find that balance, with the four starting foreign players.
“Individually if you make a mistake in China you’re probably going to get punished. There are a lot of goals in the CSL.
“If you do make a mistake in the A-League, maybe you won't get punished.”
Thwaite played both in central defence and defensive midfield for Liaoning this term.
He argued, as a defender, the CSL tests you every game, which bodes well for the China-based Socceroos contingent who are largely defenders.
“We played against the likes of Lavezzi, Pelle, Gervinho, Teixeira, so every week as a defender is a challenge,” he said.
“I was playing centre-back and defensive midfield, our team relies on us defenders to get us through these matches.
“It was a great experience to test yourself against those caliber of players.”
Thwaite said he enjoyed his defensive midfield role which allowed him to venture further forward, scoring a career-best three goals.
“When I went over I wrote different goals and what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to play at least half the goals and score a goal in the league," he said.
"I played 25 games and scored three goals, which is the most I’ve scored in any season. I was playing the majority of the season higher up.
"When you play higher up, you get into the attacking third a lot more frequently."
Cairns-born Thwaite, whose wife and two children reside on the Gold Coast, said he’d love to return to the A-League once finished in China.
“I’m 33 years old now, I’ve got another year but ideally I’d like to come back to the A-League eventually and give something back like when I was here in the past,” he said.
“My family is now based in Queensland, so it’d be great to give something back to Queensland, having grown up in Cairns myself.
“I’d never say never and you can’t control and look too far forward in the future. I’ve got another year on the contract and I’ve got to go from there.
“I’d definitely like to give something back to the game here and continue what I was doing in the eight years I was involved in the A-League.”