Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel has revealed that he had the chance to join Manchester United before he signed for the German club.
The Belgian star returned to Europe in the summer of 2018 following a stint in China, but he could have arrived in the Premier League instead of the Bundesliga.
“I could have joined Real Madrid when Jose Mourinho was there,” he said. “But then Real signed Luka Modric, so a transfer to Madrid made no sense to me.
“Shortly before the end of the transfer period Zenit called. I had good discussions with the people responsible and finally agreed. I am an open person and was not afraid of Russia.”
During his stint at Zenit, he also had the opportunity to venture to a different league, with the Serie A champions being his preference – although it never materialised.
“My contract with Zenit expired and I wanted to move to Turin to Juventus,” Witsel said.
“I had already passed the medical check and actually only had to sign the contract.
“I waited all day in the office and Zenit told me to come back. In retrospect, that was perhaps a twist of fate. Maybe it was just not the right time.”
When the time came for him to return to Europe after his spell with Tianjin Quanjian, Witsel confirms Mourinho made a move for him again – this time at Manchester United.
“First (Dortmund sporting director) Michael Zorc approached me, then (manager) Lucien Favre called me,” Witsel explained.
“I also had other offers, maybe I could have gone to Paris or Manchester, but I did not want to wait. And I had the feeling that I was the first choice for Dortmund. It is important to feel good when you go to a new club.
“So after the talks with Zorc, Favre and (CEO) Hans-Joachim Watzke, I decided to join BVB. Dortmund is a top club – and I really wanted to join a top European club.
“Maybe it was my last chance at 29 years old. It was the right decision.”
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