Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel has revealed that moves to Real Madrid and Juventus collapsed earlier in his career, while insisting that he doesn’t subscribe to the idea that it is a dream to play in the Premier League.
Sitting down with Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) ahead of Borussia Dortmund’s trip to Stuttgart on Saturday, Witsel revealed that Real Madrid overlooked the Belgium international back in 2012 in favour of a move for Luka Modrić.
“Yes, that was 2012,” Witsel told WAZ. “There were discussions, but they decided on another player back then, if I remember correctly, it was Luka Modrić.
“He was more experienced, I had just played my first year at S.L. Benfica – and then switched to Zenit Saint Petersburg.”
Four years later an opportunity would arise which had Witsel on the brink of joining Italian giants Juventus and the 29-year-old midfielder explains that he even travelled to Turin before Russia side Zenit pulled the plug.
“In the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to go to Juventus,” he added. “The transfer deadline was only that day, everything was already settled, and I flew to Turin, [but then] my former club Zenit Saint Petersburg called me and stopped everything.
“I said to myself: That’s fate. Maybe it should not be, maybe it is not the right time to switch to a top European club. And to be honest, the offer I got from China would not have come from a financial perspective in Europe. It was hard to refuse.”
Witsel’s summer transfer to Borussia Dortmund was his first to one of European football’s major five leagues, but the midfielder insists that he has no ambitions of one day moving to the Premier League – unlike many players from across the continent.
“Many football pros have the dream to play once in England. But I think the difference between the two leagues is [not] athletic, [it’s more] a matter of radiance and international visibility. I do not think the Premier League is better than the Bundesliga.”