Witsel with Zenit in 2014
|Full name||Axel Laurent Angel Lambert Witsel|
|Date of birth||12 January 1989|
|Place of birth||Liège, Belgium|
|Height||1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)|
|Zenit St. Petersburg|
|2012–||Zenit St. Petersburg||49||(8)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 15 May 2014.
† Appearances (Goals).
Axel Laurent Angel Lambert Witsel (born 12 January 1989) is a Belgian professional footballer who plays for FC Zenit Saint Petersburg in the Russian Premier League and the Belgium national team. His natural position is centre midfield and can also play attacking midfielder, but he came into the first team as a right-winger.
He made his senior international debut in 2008 and has earned over 50 caps for Belgium, representing the country at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
He is of mixed race as his father has roots in Martinique (French Caribbean) and is a former football player, and his mother is Belgian. On 17 September 2006 a 17-year-old Witsel made his debut with Standard Liège during a competitive game against FC Brussels when he replaced Steven Defour in the 89th minute. Eleven days later, he made his European debut as a substitute.
During the 2007–08 season, at 18 years of age, he was a key member in the squad of Standard Liège, winners of the Belgian League title that year. During this year, he formed a very young midfield together with other Belgian talents Defour and Marouane Fellaini. In the following season, he scored the winning goal from the penalty spot in a two-legged playoff to decide the Championship.
On 30 August 2009, Witsel sparked controversy when he broke Marcin Wasilewski's leg by stamping on his ankle during the match between Anderlecht and Standard. Following the tackle, Witsel protested the red card, claiming that it was an accident without intent, before being sent off the pitch. He soon apologised, but was the subject of criticism from several media outlets and numerous death threats from angry Anderlecht and Poland fans. The initial ban until 23 November by the Belgian Football Association, was later reduced on appeal to eight matches.
Witsel signed for Portuguese giants Benfica on a five-year deal on 13 July 2011, including a €40 million buyout clause. Witsel scored twice in the 3–1 win against FC Twente, in the Champions League play-off second leg, on 24 August 2011, sending Benfica to the group stages with a 5–3 aggregate victory.
He scored the opening goal in a 4–1 thrashing of Vitória de Guimarães in the Taça da Liga on 9 January 2012. He then assisted Nolito in a 4–1 league defeat of Vitória de Setúbal. Witsel scored his fourth goal against Santa Clara on 18 January in a Taça da Liga match. Benfica reached the final on 14 April against Gil Vicente and Witsel was awarded the Man of the Match award as Benfica claimed their fourth Taça da Liga title with a 2–1 victory.
Zenit Saint Petersburg
On 3 September 2012, Witsel signed for Zenit Saint Petersburg for €40 million (£32.5 million), after signing a five-year contract. Witsel made his debut in the Russian Premier League on 14 September, replacing Konstantin Zyryanov in the 70th minute as Zenit fell 2–0 to Terek Grozny. He scored his first two goals for the club on 30 November when Zenit brushed aside Spartak Moscow 4–2 at the Luzhniki Stadium. Witsel scored Zenit's winner against Terek Grozny on 30 March 2013, an eighth-minute strike, as his side cruised to a 3-0 league victory.
Prior to making his international debut for the senior side, he played for the under-21 side in 2007 earning nine caps as well as helping his side reach the semi-finals of the 2007 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship.
On 13 May 2014, Witsel was named in Belgium's squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He started in midfield in the team's first game of the tournament, a 2–1 win against Algeria in Belo Horizonte.
- Standard Liege
- S.L. Benfica
- "Conselho de disciplina" [Disciplinary board] (PDF). Portuguese Football Federation. 23 March 2012. p. 3. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
- "Stats Centre: Axel Witsel Facts". Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
- "Witsel breekt been van Wasilewski in tackle". Sporza. Retrieved 31 August 2009.[dead link]
- "Anderlecht-Standard faute d'Axel Witsel sur Wasilewski". YouTube. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- Standard Liege midfielder Axel Witsel banned for horror tackle
- Witsel horror tackle ban reduced
- "Benfica sign Witsel". ESPNFC. 14 July 2011.
- "Witsel delivers as Benfica oust Twente". UEFA. 24 August 2011.
- "V.Guimarães 1-4 Benfica". LPFP. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
- "Benfica 2-0 Sta. Clara". LPFP. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
- "Witsel foi o Man of The Match". LPFP. 15 April 2012.
- Zenit signs Witsel
- "Zenit 0 - 2 Terek Grozny". ESPNFC. 14 September 2012.
- "Spartak Moscow 2 - 4 Zenit St Petersburg". ESPNFC. 30 November 2012.
- "Terek Grozny 0-3 Zenit St. Petersburg". ESPNFC. 30 March 2013.
- "Adnan Januzaj included in Belgium's World Cup squad". BBC Sport. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- Chowdhury, Saj (17 June 2014). "Belgium 2-1 Algeria". BBC Sport. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
- "A. Witsel". Soccerway. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- Rudisha, David. "MANCHESTER UNITED LOOKING TO MAKE MOVE FOR STANDARD LIEGE MIDFIELDER AXEL WITSEL". sportqa. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Axel Witsel.|
- Official website
- Zenit profile
- Axel Witsel at National-Football-Teams.com
- Belgium Stats at Belgian FA