Borussia Dortmund are to sign Axel Witsel from Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian.
After protracted negotiations, the Belgium international has joined the Bundesliga club’s training camp in Switzerland, with the deal set to be formalised in the next few days.
He moves for a reported fee of €20 million, and will sign a four-year deal the club.
Dortmund’s move for Witsel has been an on-off affair, with reports last week that he had already completed a medical, whilst others suggested that the two clubs had a disagreement over the validity of a release clause in Witsel’s contract with Tianjin.
Regarded as one of Europe’s top central midfielders, Witsel’s move to China from Zenit St. Petersburg in January 2017 was a surprise. He would make 36 appearances in the league for Tianjin, scoring five goals and completing three assists. His last game for the club came in May, a 1-1 draw against Shandong Luneng Taishan, ahead of the 29-year-old joining the Belgium 2018 FIFA World Cup squad.
Capped 96 times by his country, he appeared in all but one of Belgium’s games in what was their best-ever World Cup, eventually finishing third, his move to China not preventing him from remaining a key member of Roberto Martínez’s squad.
Importantly for Dortmund, he also has plenty of UEFA Champions League experience, appearing 40 times for the competition in his spells with Standard Liège, Benfica and Zenit.
Witsel has ‘all the qualities’
Upon Witsel’s arrival at the training camp in Bad Ragaz on Monday, Dortmund’s Sporting Director Michael Zorc expressed his delight at bringing Witsel to the club. “We have been very interested in bringing Axel to the club for a number of months now and we are really happy that he has opted for Borussia Dortmund," he said.
Zorc went on to cite Witsel’s “great international experience” and believes that he has “all the qualities required to make a mark” at Dortmund – “tactical awareness, strength when challenge for the ball, pace, creativity and mentality.”
Witsel himself revealed that he had been “determined to transfer back to Europe” after the World Cup, and that he is “really happy and also proud,” that he will be playing for Dortmund. “I didn’t have to think about it for very long after our first discussions because Borussia Dortmund is one of the best clubs on the continent,” he added. “I honestly cannot wait to run out in front of 81,000 people.”
The club confirmed that the transfer will be completed, subject to international clearance.
Quotes via Borussia Dortmund.