Reports that Benfica defensive midfielder Axel Witsel is on the radar of some of the Premier League’s top clubs will come as little surprise to many in the game.
The 23-year-old has been building his reputation in Europe after making a professional debut back in 2006, with a move to Benfica last summer seen as the next step in his progression.
And, amidst reports that Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are all interested in bringing the player to England, GMF decided to put the microscope on the talented Belgian.
A strong and commanding midfielder, Witsel has seamlessly made the step-up from Belgian Pro League football with Standard Liege to the Primera Liga in Portugal with Benfica.
His performances in the Champions League have also caught the eye, with the 6ft Belgian international impressing on both occasions against United as the English champions crashed out.
A touch tackler not unlike Roy Keane, Witsel has also added versatility to his game, with an ability to play on the wing because of his raw speed and dribbling ability – which has also been seen on occasion when powering through the heart of midfield.
With a sound and solid technique, the midfielder has been known to score goals in his career, but in a more defensive role hasn’t needed to with Benfica.
A fantastic engine, Witsel also has no problems going box-to-box throughout 90 minutes, and his height makes him a danger at set pieces.
Temperament in the biggest question mark that surrounds Witsel’s career. With a string of red cards and horror tackles putting a black mark by his name, the youngster has already served a number of suspensions for his tackles.
Whilst his development has been impressive, the player is also still to be tested in one of Europe’s top leagues, meaning questions could be raised over his consistency at the very highest level.
The lack of goals this season suggests that may not be part of his game anymore, and Witsel has been known to be careless with the ball in the past.
At £17.5 million, the Belgian international does represent a gamble, given his controversial red card record.
However, his hot-head reputation appears to have improved in Portugal, with only four yellow cards and no reds so far this season.
If Witsel can maintain that discipline for the rest of this season, then that could serve as proof to England's top clubs, and makes the price tag seem much more respectable.
Approach with caution.
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