Axel Witsel

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Axel Witsel
Axel Witsel Belgium.jpg
Witsel playing for Belgium in 2011
Personal information
Full name Axel Thomas Witsel
Date of birth (1989-01-12) 12 January 1989 (age 25)
Place of birth Liège, Belgium
Height 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)[1]
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current club Zenit St. Petersburg
Number 28
Youth career
2004–2006 Standard Liège
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2006–2011 Standard Liège 148 (34)
2011–2012 Benfica 32 (1)
2012– Zenit St. Petersburg 44 (6)
National team
2004 Belgium U15 1 (0)
2005 Belgium U16 2 (0)
2005–2006 Belgium U17 19 (0)
2006–2007 Belgium U18 5 (0)
2006 Belgium U19 3 (0)
2007–2009 Belgium U21 10 (0)
2008– Belgium 45 (5)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 12 April 2014.

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 5 March 2014

Axel Thomas Witsel (born 12 January 1989) is a Belgian footballer who plays for FC Zenit Saint Petersburg in the Russian Premier League and the Belgium national team.[2] His natural position is centre midfield and can also play attacking midfielder, but he came into the first team as a right-winger. 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.

Club career[edit]

Standard Liege[edit]

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 Marouane Fellaini and Steven Defour. In the following season, he scored the winning goal from the penalty spot in a two-legged playoff to decide the Championship. He is usually known for his excellent technique and passes.

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.[3][4] 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.[5] The initial ban until 23 November by the Belgian Football Association,[6] was later reduced on appeal to eight matches.[7]

Benfica[edit]

Witsel signed for Portuguese giants Benfica on a five-year deal on 13 July 2011, including a €40 million buyout clause.[8] 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.[9]

Witsel playing for Benfica against Zenit in 2012

He scored the opening goal in a 4–1 thrashing of Vitória de Guimarães in the Taça da Liga on 9 January 2012.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

Zenit St Petersburg[edit]

On 3 September 2012, Witsel signed for Zenit Saint Petersburg for €40 million (£32.5 million), after signing a five-year contract.[13][14] 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.[15] He scored his first two goals for the club on 30 November when Zenit brushed aside Spartak Moscow 4–2 at the Luzhniki Stadium.[16] 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.[17]

International career[edit]

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 26 March 2008, Witsel made his international debut during a friendly game against Morocco. The match resulted in a 1–4 loss, but Witsel scored his first goal for Belgium.

International goals[edit]

Goal Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 26 March 2008 Stade Roi Baudouin, Brussels  Morocco 1 – 4 Lost Friendly
2 17 November 2009 Stade Louis-Dugauguez, Sedan  Qatar 0 – 2 Won Friendly
3 9 February 2011 Jules Ottenstadion, Ghent  Finland 1 – 1 Draw Friendly
4 25 March 2011 Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna  Austria 0 – 2 Won Euro 2012 Q
5

Honours[edit]

Club[edit]

Standard Liege
S.L. Benfica

Individual[edit]

Club statistics[edit]

Correct as of 12 April 2014

Club Season League Cup League Cup Super Cup Europe Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Standard Liège 2006–07 16 2 5 1 - - 1 0 22 3
2007–08 33 7 6 1 - - 3 2 42 10
2008–09 35 8 0 0 - 1 0 10 1 46 9
2009–10 27 6 1 1 - 1 1 12 3 43 12
2010–11 37 10 6 2 - - - 43 12
Total 148 33 18 5 - 2 1 26 6 194 45
Benfica 2011–12 29 1 1 0 4 2 - 14 2 48 5
2012–13 3 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 0 3 0
Total 32 1 1 0 4 2 - 14 2 51 5
Zenit 2012–13 19 4 3 0 0 0 - 9 1 31 5
2013–14 25 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 11 0 38 2
Total 44 6 4 0 0 0 1 0 20 1 69 7
Career total 224 40 23 5 4 2 3 1 60 9 314 57

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Lucas Biglia
Belgian Young Footballer of the Year
2008
Succeeded by
Incumbent