The rise of notable football players featuring in the Chinese Super League has grown considerably over the past few years. Names such as Javier Mascherano, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Paulinho and Anderson Talisca – just to name a few – regularly feature in the CSL. However, some eventually get bored and decide to return to a more competitive environment.
Such was the case of Axel Witsel. The former Zenit defensive midfielder was one of the first top players to move to the Chinese Super League when he joined Tianjin Quanjian back in January 2017. However, his adventure only lasted 18 months and he is back in a top-tier league. He reached an agreement to sign with Borussia Dortmund earlier this month. On Monday, he was officially announced as the latest signing from the Bundesliga giants.
There is no question that Dortmund made a stellar signing here. Sure, Witsel might not be a world-class player or one that could play for a team such as Barcelona or Real Madrid. But he is a quality player, and he will undoubtedly make Dortmund a better team for a number of reasons.
What are the positives behind his arrival to Dortmund?
First, Dortmund signed him on a bargain price: “only” €20 million. One could think that is a big amount of money, but those who think that probably are unaware of the crazy transfer fees in recent years. Getting a player with Witsel’s experience – one that includes two World Cup appearances and 96 caps with the Belgium national team – for that kind of money is a great piece of business for Dortmund.
Plus, we mustn’t forget the fact that Witsel already knows what is like to play in some of the top competitions in the world. Prior to his adventure on China he played one year for Benfica and five years for Zenit. Therefore, he is used to feature regularly in both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. That is another plus on his arrival and especially on a team like Dortmund. The German side usually signs more young players instead of more established ones such as Witsel.
Tactics-wise, Witsel also makes sense a lot of sense for Dortmund. He could act as mentor for Julian Weigl, one of the most exportable players in the club. He will also as a direct replacement for Gonzalo Castro, who departed the side during the current transfer window. His tenacity on the ball, tactical discipline and excellent positioning skills are perfect for the Bundesliga as well.
A step in the right direction for both the short-term and long-term picture
Last but not least, the move will also benefit Witsel on a personal level. Getting back to a top-tier league should boost his chances of remaining as a regular presence in the Belgium national team for the upcoming challenges. And considering he is only 29 years old, he has enough in him to play in at least one more World Cup and several more years at the top level.
Being in the Bundesliga will help him to face top competition on a weekly basis, something that should boost his chances of getting into his best shape while getting closer to his peak years.
Without a doubt, this seems like a move that will benefit both parties.
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