Atlético Madrid is almost done with a free transfer for Belgium international midfielder Axel Witsel. He will take Héctor Herrera’s salary slot and compete with Geoffrey Kondogbia in defensive midfield.
The first place to report the news was RTBF Sport in Belgium. Since then, Marca and Relevo have confirmed it. Diego Simeone and Andrea Berta met with Witsel as negotiations for the player to join Olympique Marseille moved forward. The 33-year-old was also wanted by Fenerbahce in Turkey and several teams in Major League Soccer, but it looks like he has decided to play for the first time in LaLiga.
Witsel is about to sign a one-year deal with Atlético, which includes an option for a second year. There have been rumors that he could come to Madrid next week for a physical. After that, the club would announce that he had signed with them.
Witsel is an experienced center who has been a mainstay on the Belgium national team for the past ten years. Since making his debut as a teenager in 2008, he has played over 120 times for his country. At the club level, he played for Zenit in the Russian Premier League for a few years. After that, he played for two years in China and then came back to Europe to play for Borussia Dortmund.
Witsel played in 41 games for Dortmund in all competitions in 2021/22. He scored twice in 29 Bundesliga games (22 of which he started), his first games back after tearing his Achilles tendon in early 2021. Last season, he made more than nine recoveries every 90 minutes. He is still a sharp and reliable passer, with a success rate of over 93 percent in each of his four seasons in Germany. In a pinch, he can play center-back.
Witsel won’t do anything exciting for Atlético. He only played an average of 67 minutes per match last season, which is his lowest average since he was 17 and playing for Standard Liège. Given that Simeone likes experienced footballers and that the 5 position needs a lot of competition, it’s not surprising that Atleti went for a player like Witsel instead of giving Javi Serrano, who is only 19, a spot on the first team.