Witsel with Zenit in 2015
|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 Saint Petersburg|
|2012–||Zenit Saint Petersburg||109||(15)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 20 August 2016.
Axel Laurent Angel Lambert Witsel (born 12 January 1989) is a Belgian professional footballer who plays for Russian club Zenit Saint Petersburg and the Belgium national team. He came into the first team as a right-winger, and can also play attacking midfielder, though his natural position is centre midfield.
He made his senior international debut in 2008 and has earned over 60 caps for Belgium, representing the country at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
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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 club 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, 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.
In Zenit's first match of the 2014–15 UEFA Champions League group stage on 16 September 2014, Witsel scored Zenit's second goal in a 2–0 away victory over former club Benfica. After finishing third in their Champions League group, Zenit were parachuted into the Europa League knockout phase; in the first leg of their Round of 16 clash against Torino on 12 March 2015, Witsel scored on a rebound as Zenit defeated the Italian club 2–0. On 26 April, Witsel scored the game's only goal in the seventeenth minute as Zenit defeated Arsenal Tula in a league match at the Petrovskiy Stadium. On Sunday 17 May, Witsel played the full 90 minutes as Zenit drew 1–1 with FC Ufa, earning the point they needed to secure the Premier League crown, the club's fourth overall and Witsel's first with Zenit.
- As of 15 May 2016
|Standard Liège||2006–07||Belgian Pro League||16||2||—||—||1||0||—||17||2|
|Zenit Saint Petersburg||2012–13||Russian Premier League||19||4||3||0||—||9||1||—||31||5|
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.
- Scores and results list Belgium's goal tally first.
|1.||26 March 2008||King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels||Morocco||1–2||1–4||Friendly|||
|2.||17 November 2009||Stade Louis Dugauguez, Sedan||Qatar||1–0||2–0||Friendly|||
|3.||9 February 2011||Jules Ottenstadion, Ghent||Finland||1–0||1–1||Friendly|||
|4.||25 March 2011||Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna||Austria||1–0||2–0||UEFA Euro 2012 qualifier|||
|6.||4 September 2014||Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Liège||Australia||2–0||2–0||Friendly|||
|7.||18 June 2016||Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux||Republic of Ireland||2–0||3–0||UEFA Euro 2016|||
- Standard Liege
- "Conselho de disciplina" [Disciplinary board] (PDF). Portuguese Football Federation (in Portuguese). 23 March 2012. p. 3. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
- "Site officiel du Standard de Liège – Accueil". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- "Stats Centre: Axel Witsel Facts". Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
- "Witsel breekt been van Wasilewski in tackle". Sporza. Archived from the original on 1 September 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- "Anderlecht-Standard faute d'Axel Witsel sur Wasilewski". YouTube. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- "Standard Liege Stars Defour & Witsel Receive Death Threats - Report - Goal.com". 1 September 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- Football, Mirror (1 September 2009). "Standard Liege midfielder Axel Witsel banned for horror tackle". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- "Yahoo UK & Ireland – Sports News – Live Scores – Results". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- "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.
- "Официальный сайт ФК «Зенит»". Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- "Comunicado" [Announcement] (PDF) (in Portuguese). CMVM. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
- "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.
- "Familiar Zenit faces come back to haunt Benfica". UEFA. 16 September 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- "Zenit ease to victory over ten-man Torino". UEFA. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- "Zenit St Petersburg 1–0 FC Arsenal Tula". Yahoo Sports!. 26 April 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- "Andre Villas-Boas leads Zenit St Petersburg to Russian Premier League title after ill-fated spells at Chelsea and Tottenham". Daily Mail. 17 May 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- "Суперкубок России по футболу 2015, Финал". RFPL (in Russian). 12 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- "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.
- "Axel Witsel marque, Stijn Stijnen se troue deux fois". Le Soir (in French). 27 March 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Victoire des Diables face au Qatar (0–2)". La Dernière Heure (in French). 17 November 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Da Silva, Christophe (9 February 2011). "Rode Duivels gooien verdiende winst weer weg in blessuretijd". Het Laatste Nieuws (in Dutch). Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Witsel bezorgt Rode Duivels zege van de hoop". Sporza (in Dutch). 25 March 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Lynch, Michael (5 September 2014). "Socceroos easily beaten by Belgium in friendly". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Lynch, Michael (18 June 2016). "Belgium vs. Republic of Ireland 3 - 0". soccerway.com.
- "A. Witsel". Soccerway. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
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