Name: Axel Witsel
Club: Zenit Saint Petersburg
International Caps: 48
Position: Central Midfielder
A player long linked with the Premier League, Witsel has publicy spoken of his preference for a move either Chelsea or Manchester United. The 25 year old is an important cog of the Belgian side that is expected to deliver this summer, beginning against Algeria this afternoon.
Despite the depth of talent in the country’s current generation, Witsel is considered one of the few “untouchables” in Marc Wilmots’ side. The Zenit man was the only outfield player to start every World Cup qualifier for his country and injury permitting, is a certainty to retain his place in the side throughout the competition.
A deep-lying central midfielder that has goals in his locker, the Belgian will be expected to provide the platform for the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard to create ahead of him. Witsel rarely concedes possession and is technically gifted with the ball at his feet, with great vision and a good range of passing. Despite only being 25, Wilmots has great experience at international level and is considered by Wilmots as his “boss on the pitch.”
However, Witsel as of yet remains unproven in one of Europe’s top leagues. The midfielder has taken an odd career path from Standard Liege to Zenit via Benfica and is reportedly eager to move once more. But having splashed £32 million on acquiring his signature, the Russian club will not be willing to sell one of their prized assets on the cheap.
As it stands, United have the stronger need for a midfielder in Witsel’s mould. A strong showing at the World Cup, beginning against Algeria today, could go a long way to convincing Louis Van Gaal that the 25 year old would be worth the investment.