Axel Witsel has revealed he turned down a move to Italian giants Juventus because of the money he was offered to join the Chinese Super League.
The 27-year-old Belgium international, who was due to become a free agent in the summer, had been tipped to seal a move to Serie A but instead looks set to follow in the footsteps of Carlos Tevez and Oscar.
Many have questioned Witsel’s decision to reject the chance of joining one of Europe’s elite clubs but the midfielder has explained why a move to China is so appealing.
Belgium international Axel Witsel (left) has decided to reject a move to Juventus
Witsel (left) will leave Zenit to seal a move to Fabio Cannavaro’s Tianjin Quanjian
FIVE HIGH-PROFILE MOVES TO CHINA
Oscar – £52m to Shanghai SIPG
Carlos Tevez – £71m to Shanghai Shenhua
Hulk – £46m to Shanghai SIPG
Ramires – £25m to Jiangsu Suning
Alex Teixeira – £38m to Jiangsu Suning
Witsel is quoted as telling Italian publication Tuttosport: ‘It was a very difficult decision because on one hand there was a great team and a top club like Juventus.
‘But on the other there was a crucial offer for my family that I couldn’t turn down.
‘The leadership at Juventus have always behaved like gentlemen with me and I can only be grateful to them.
‘I will cheer for Juventus and I hope they can win the Champions League. Then who knows, maybe one day in the future our paths will finally meet.’
2006–2011: Standard Liege 183 appearances, (42 goals)
2011–2012: Benfica 49 (5)
2012– : Zenit 180 (22)
Witsel, who has been capped 76 times by Belgium, will play under Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro at Tianjin Quanjian.
The newly promoted Chinese Super League outfit will compete with both the Shanghai sides.
Tevez will play under Gus Poyet at Shanghai Shenhua while Oscar has teamed up with Andre Villas-Boas at Shanghai SIPG.
Witsel will play under former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro when he completes his move
Carlos Tevez (left) and Oscar (right) have both sealed moves to the Chinese Super League
THE TOP-10 BEST-PAID FOOTBALLERS IN THE WORLD
Tevez has shot to the top of the world’s best earners list
1) Carlos Tevez (Shanghai Shenhua) £615,000 per week £31.98m per year
2) Oscar (Shanghai SIPG) £400,000 per week £20.8m per year
3=) Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) £365,000 per week £19m per year*
3=) Lionel Messi (Barcelona) £365,000 per week £19m per year*
5) Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) £346,000 per week £18m per year*
6) Hulk (Shanghai SIPG) £317,000 per week £16.5m per year
7) Paul Pogba (Manchester United) £290,000 per week £15m per year
8) Neymar (Barcelona) £289,000 per week £15m per year*
9=) Graziano Pelle (Shandong Luneng) £260,000 per week £13.5m per year
9=) Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) £260,000 per week £13.5m per year
*All estimated figures are pre-tax, except in these cases where figures are post-tax. Sums may vary according to bonus payments.