Axel Witsel

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Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund, Gladbach scoop big away wins

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The Top Three all won their first matches after the Bundesliga’s Winterpause, as leaders Borussia Dortmund and third place side Borussia Monchengladbach joined Friday winners Bayern Munich in the win column.

[ MORE: Arsenal-Chelsea recap | JPW’s 3 things ]


Bayer Leverkusen 0-1 Borussia Monchengladbach

Alassane Plea’s 10th goal of the season kept ‘Gladbach three points back of Bayern and nine behind BVB. The visitors had almost a month to stew on a 2-1 loss to the leaders, but were fairly fortunate to get three points considering Bayer out-attempted the Foals by a 21-7 margin and put nine shots on Yann Sommer.

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 Freiburg

Eintracht’s pair of Top Ten scorers struck again, with Luka Jovic adding his league-best 13th goal and Sebastien Haller notching hsi 10th goal of the season. Borussia Dortmund is the only other club with two double-digit league scorers (Paco Alcacer and Marco Reus). The other goal came from Ante Rebic, who has six in 874 minutes.

RB Leipzig 0-1 Borussia Dortmund

Axel Witsel’s well-hit 19th minute goal off a corner kick was all BVB needed to restore its six-point table advantage on Bayern Munich. Christian Pulisic played the final quarter-hour for BVB, while fellow American youngster Tyler Adams of RBL was an unused sub during his first Bundesliga matchday.

Elsewhere
Hoffenheim 1-3 Bayern Munich — Friday
Stuttgart 2-3 Mainz
Augsburg 1-2 Fortuna Dusseldorf
Hannover 0-1 Werder Bremen — USMNT’s Sargent plays 10 mins
Nurnberg v. Hertha Berlin — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Schalke v. Wolfsburg — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 18 14 3 1 45 18 27 8-1-0 6-2-1 45
 Bayern Munich 18 12 3 3 39 19 20 4-3-1 8-0-2 39
 Mönchengladbach 18 11 3 4 37 18 19 8-0-0 3-3-4 36
 RB Leipzig 18 9 4 5 31 18 13 7-2-1 2-2-4 31
 Eintracht Frankfurt 18 9 3 6 37 24 13 5-1-3 4-2-3 30
 VfL Wolfsburg 17 8 4 5 27 22 5 3-3-3 5-1-2 28
 1899 Hoffenheim 18 6 7 5 33 26 7 3-4-3 3-3-2 25
 Werder Bremen 18 7 4 7 29 29 0 3-3-3 4-1-4 25
 Hertha BSC Berlin 17 6 6 5 26 27 -1 4-3-1 2-3-4 24
 Bayer Leverkusen 18 7 3 8 26 30 -4 4-1-4 3-2-4 24
 FSV Mainz 05 18 6 6 6 20 24 -4 3-4-2 3-2-4 24
 SC Freiburg 18 5 6 7 22 28 -6 3-4-2 2-2-5 21
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 18 6 3 9 21 34 -13 4-0-5 2-3-4 21
 FC Schalke 04 17 5 3 9 20 24 -4 3-0-5 2-3-4 18
 FC Augsburg 18 3 6 9 26 31 -5 1-4-4 2-2-5 15
 VfB Stuttgart 18 4 2 12 14 38 -24 3-1-5 1-1-7 14
 Hannover 96 18 2 5 11 17 36 -19 2-1-6 0-4-5 11
 1. FC Nürnberg 17 2 5 10 14 38 -24 2-3-4 0-2-6 11

Witsel leaves China to play for Borussia Dortmund

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29-year-old Axel Witsel has joined Borussia Dortmund after the German club met his release clause, triggering the end of his contract with Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian.

Dortmund announced the signing on Monday afternoon and confirmed they had triggered the clause, and announced the signing of a contract through the summer of 2022, meaning Witsel will be 33 years old at the expiration of his new Dortmund contract. The club posted pictures of Witsel already participating in team training.

[ MORE: Top 10 PL players at each position ]

Witsel had a solid World Cup performance this summer, helping lead Belgium to the semifinals before ultimately falling to eventual champions France. He played a more defensive role in midfield alongside the marauding Marouane Fellaini, helping distribute to Kevin De Bruyne, Nacer Chadli, and Eden Hazard. Overall, Witsel has 96 caps for Belgium.

“We were strongly interested in signing Axel Witsel for the past few months,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc in the official release. “We are delighted he opted to join Borussia Dortmund. Axel is a player with huge international experience. He has the skill set to shape our midfield: Tactical understanding, good in the direct duels, pace, creativity and mentality.”

Witsel played just 36 matches for Tianjin Quanjian, scoring five goals. He joined the Chinese club last summer from Zenit St. Petersburg after spending five years in the Russian top flight. Surprisingly, this is the first time in his entire career that Witsel will play in a Big 5 league (England, Germany, Italy, Spain, France). He rose through the youth ranks at Belgian giants Standard Liege to make the first team, before making stops in Portugal with Benfica and Russia with Zenit.

Transfer rumor roundup: Dortmund wants Witsel; Mignolet to Barca?

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Pro Soccer Talk takes a look at some of the biggest transfer stories on a busy Tuesday.

[ MORE: Pulisic staying put at Dortmund for 2018 season ]


After a strong World Cup for third-place finishers Belgium, Axel Witsel is drawing serious interest from one of Germany’s top sides.

Borussia Dortmund is believed to be looking to bring in the holding midfielder, who showed well in Russia as an anchor in front of the Belgian back line.

The Bundesliga side is currently in negotiations with Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian, however, it’s unclear how advanced discussions are between the two organizations.


Barcelona could make an expected approach to Liverpool to secure a backup goalkeeper this summer.

With Alisson having landed at Anfield and Loris Karius also available for Jurgen Klopp, the Blaugrana are looking at Simon Mignolet as a second-string keeper behind Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Mignolet traveled to Russia this summer for the World Cup, and served as number two for Belgium behind Thibaut Courtois.


Paris Saint-Germain will have some good news as Adrian Rabiot appears set to sign a new contract at the Parc des Princes.

Rabiot has been linked with a move to Barcelona for much of the offseason, however, it seems as though new manager Thomas Tuchel will be able to keep the midfielder in Ligue 1.


Finally, Arsenal has handed young midfielder Emile Smith Rowe a new contract at the Emirates Stadium after an impressive showing at the International Champions Cup.

Smith Rowe scored for the Gunners against Atletico Madrid in fantastic style, making him a player to watch for the club in the future.

Axel Witsel becomes China’s latest big-money signing

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BEIJING (AP) Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel has become the latest Europe-based player to move to the Chinese Super League.

Zenit St. Petersburg said Wednesday in a statement that the 27-year-old Witsel will join Tianjin Quanjian, a club recently promoted to China’s top league and coached by former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro.

[ MORE: All the latest transfer rumors and news ]

Italian media quoted Witsel this week saying that he had turned down a chance to join Juventus after receiving “a crucial offer for my family that I couldn’t turn down” from Tianjin.

The transfer fee was not disclosed (reported at $52 million; nearly $21 million salary).

The cash-rich Super League has spent enormous sums luring stars to China. Recent transfers include Argentine striker Carlos Tevez, who joined Shanghai Shenhua, and Brazilian midfielder Oscar, who signed with crosstown rivals Shanghai SIPG.

Top coaches have also made the switch, with former Manchester City and Real Madrid coach Manual Pellegrini now at Hebei China Fortune and Luiz Felipe Scolari, the former Brazil coach, leading Guangzhou Evergrande. China’s national team recently hired Italian World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi to a hefty contract, signaling its desire to become a regional superpower.

[ MORE: Chelsea go for PL-record 14th straight win, vs. Tottenham ]

Witsel joined Zenit from Benfica in 2012 and made 180 appearances for the Russian side. The central midfielder also played for Belgium at the European Championship.

Witsel’s transfer is not the first big-money transfer from Zenit to a Chinese club. Zenit sold Brazilian striker Hulk in June to Shanghai SIPG for $58 million, breaking the Asian transfer record.

Axel Witsel confirms he will join Juventus, either in January or next summer

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Veteran midfielder Axel Witsel nearly joined Juventus this past summer, but the deal fell through when his current club Zenit St. Petersburg yanked the deal at the last moment.

Now, the Belgian confirmed he will indeed make the move, although he is unsure whether a January switch will materialize, or if he will be forced to wait until the summer.

When asked if he will be joining Juventus, Witsel answered affirmatively, saying, “This will be the case now, but I do not know when.”

“It’s always nice to hear that a club like Juventus is interested in me,” Witsel told Belgian radio network RTBF. “Now I do not wonder whether this will be in January or June. I play my games and then we’ll see what will happen to me.”

A Standard Liege youth product, Witsel moved to Benfica in 2011 before finally settling at Zenit the next summer. The 27-year-old has made 174 appearances for the Russian club across all competitions, including 24 Champions League appearances where he’s bagged two goals and an assist.

This season, Witsel has been a workhorse for Zenit, making an appearance in all 13 league matches thus far, staying the full 90 for 10 of them. The club suffered its first loss of the Russian Premier League season on Sunday, falling 2-1 on the road at Terek Grozny. However, despite this solid record, a host of draws leaves them in second place in the table, three points adrift of Spartak Moscow.

For Juventus, with Sami Khedira often injured and Claudio Marchisio now over the 30 mark, it makes sense for them to chase a seasoned international midfielder such as Witsel. The Old Lady sits in first place in the Serie A table, four points above Roma.