Axel Witsel Reveals He Almost Joined Real Madrid & Juventus But Plays Down Premier League ‘Dream’

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 Modri?.

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“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 Modri?

“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.

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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.”

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Real Madrid vs Levante 1-2: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Visitors Pile Pressure on Lopetegui

?Real Madrid’s terrible run of form continued as they were shocked by Levante 1-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu to heap even more pressure on manager Julen Lopetegui.

Levante took a shock lead when their captain and talisman Jose Luis Morales took advantage of a mistake from Rafael Varane and rounded the keeper Thibaut Courtois with a brilliant first touch and slotted home the opener, after just seven minutes.

Real Madrid CF v Levante UD - La Liga

The quickly day got worse for Madrid when Roger Marti scored a VAR-given penalty. A free-kick was initially given on the edge of the penalty area after Raphael Varane was adjudged to have handled the ball only for the decision to be altered, before Roger scored from the resulting spot kick.

The home side had all of the possession and will argue they were extremely unlucky on the day. They saw three attempts hit the woodwork, as well as having a goal ruled out by VAR and another close offside call disallowing a late goal for Mariano.

?The hosts did eventually pull a goal back to end their long barren run without a goal when Marcelo fired home but it didn’t prove to be enough to avoid extending their winless run to five games.


Another day to forget for Madrid with time rapidly running out for their manager who will be definitely fearing the sack after this one.

Check out our break down of the game below.


Real Madrid:

Key Talking Point: 

While the VAR decisions will be spoke about for days to come, the main talking point from a Madrid point of view has to be the fact they achieved an ?unwanted club record of minutes without scoring a goal.

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The 55th minute mark came and went without Madrid finding the back of the net meaning Lepotegui will be known as the man that lead Los Blancos to over 7 hours and 45 minutes without a goal – a record that had stood since 1985.

They finally did score in the 72nd minute but the record still stands and will be another talking point from this poor defeat.


Player Ratings:

Starting XI: Courtois (5); Odriozola (6), Varane (5), Ramos (6), Marcelo (8); Casemiro (7), Modric (7), Isco (6); Vasquez (7), Asensio (6), Mariano (6)

Substitutes: Bale (6), Ceballos (6), Benzema (7)

Star Man: Marcelo

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The Brazilian returned from injury and showed what Los Blancos had missed without him in the side. 

He was a constant threat down the left hand side for Madrid setting up a number of scoring chances. He also got the goal to get his side back in the game firing home from a Benzema pass with his weaker right foot. 

Lopetegui and the Madrid team will be glad to have him the Brazilian back but he couldn’t quite inspire his side enough in this one.


Worst Player: Varane

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He had a day to forget for his side being at fault for both the opening goals for Levante. 

His positioning was poor for the first goal, completely misjudging the initial ball through and losing Levante forward Morales. 

The World Cup winner was also at fault for Levante’s second as he conceded the penalty. 

Constantly under pressure from Roger and Morales, the usually dependable and classy centre back struggled to cope and will be looking to erase this game from his memory.


Levante:


Key Talking Point: 

There is only one place to look in the game for Levante and that is the assistance they got from VAR. They benefitted twice from corrections to decisions brought by the technology. 

Firstly, VAR consultation turned a free kick into a penalty after that Varane handball, before Asensio’s strike was chalked off for offside.

The visitors will certainly be delighted with how the technology worked for them after it helped them earn their second win at the Bernabeu.


Player Ratings:

Starting XI: Olazabal (8); Cabaco (6), Postigo (8), Pier (7); Jason (7), Bardhi (7), Campana (6), Rochina (7), Tono (7); Roger (7), Morales (9)

Substitutes: Chema (6), Doukoure (6), Boeteng (7)

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Star man: Jose Luis Morales

Once again for Levante their star man was their inspirational captain Morales. 

The skipper was brilliant for his side all game and got the opening goal after latching onto the pass from Sergio Postigo. His brilliant first touch took him in on goal, before slotted home past Courtois. 

He pressed and hassled the Madrid back four all day long and lead from the front. A player Varane will be having nightmares about tonight, for sure.


Looking Ahead: 

Madrid and their increasingly under-fire manager now head into next week’s Clasico without a win in their last five games, and three defeats in the last four.

Lionel Messi and co lie in wait and will be raring to pile even more pressure on their fierce rivals. The question everyone will be asking before that though will be whether Lopetegui will even be in the dugout for that game at the Nou Camp on 28 October.

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Report Claims Premier League Clubs on Alert as Real Madrid Prepared to Sell £100m Marco Asensio

?Real Madrid are reportedly open to the idea of selling Marco Asensio; an idea which has put some of England’s biggest clubs on notice. 

One of the world’s most highly rated young attackers, Asensio has failed to impress under new manager Julen Lopetegui as Real Madrid have struggled in La Liga so far this season. 

Asensio was hugely impressive in his first two seasons at Madrid as he secured two Champions Leagues and one La Liga winners medal since his move from Mallorca. The young forward even got on the score sheet in the 4-1 Champions League final win over Juventus in 2017. 

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Despite sigining a six-year contract extension in 2017, ?Madrid may be willing to cash in on one of their most valuable youngsters, if one report from Marca is to be believed.

Since the departure of record goalscorer ?Cristiano Ronaldo, many had expected ?Asensio to help fill the void left by the Portugese star. However as he and Real have struggled, they could be set to cash in – if his £100m valuation is met. 

According to Marca and reported by ??The Mirror, Europe’s biggest clubs have been sniffing around the Spanish international. English contingent ?Chelsea, ?Liverpool and ?Manchester United would all be interested in signing the 22-year-old, whilst French giants PSG are also said to be monitoring the situation. 

Asensio himself may be reluctant to leave the club, as he’s committed to staying at Real. 

“I’ve never had the intention to go anywhere,” Asensio has previously said. “This is my third season. In this one I think I have continuity and more prominence, and I’m seeing [improvement in] the performances I’m doing.”

Asensio has only found the net once in 11 appearances for Madrid this season, but the talent possessed by the youngster is undeniable. Should he decide that he needs to leave the Spanish capital, he could have a long list of suitors to choose from. 

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La Liga Clubs Learn Their Copa del Rey Fate as Round of 32 Draw Made

?Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid were among the 20 La Liga teams drawn into the Copa del Rey round of 32, each being paired with lower league opposition as per seeding rules.

Holders Barcelona have been handed a tie against Cultural Leonesa from Segunda Division B, the third tier of Spanish football. The team from Leon in north west Spain were beaten 13-2 on aggregate by Real in this round of the competition in 2016/17.

Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa v Real Madrid - Copa del Rey: Round of 32

This year, Real have been drawn against Melilla, another team from Segunda Division B. The away leg of the tie will require an overseas trip as the city of Melilla is located in Spanish territory on the north coast of Africa, sharing a land border with Morocco.

Atletico have been paired with the lowest ranked team left in the competition, Sant Andreu. The club resides in the Barcelona district of the same name and was the only side in the draw from Spain’s Tercera Division, the fourth tier on the league ladder.

Other notable ties include Champions League club Valencia against third tier Ebro, and all-La Liga clashes between Athletic Bilbao and Huesca, and Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad.

The full draw for the 2018/19 Copa del Rey Round of 32 appears below:

Cultural Leonesa vs Barcelona

Ebro vs Valencia

Sant Andreu vs Atletico Madrid

Melilla vs Real Madrid

Villanovense vs Sevilla

Racing Santander vs Real Betis

Almeria vs Villarreal

Real Mallorca vs Real Valladolid

Cadiz vs Espanyol

Sporting Gijon vs Eibar

Lugo vs Levante

Cordoba vs Getafe

Athletic Bilbao vs Huesca

Deportivo Alaves vs Girona

Leganes vs Rayo Vallecano

Celta Vigo vs Real Sociedad

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N’Golo Kante in Line for New Chelsea Deal as Report Claims Only 2 Clubs Could Tempt Him to Leave

?Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante is reportedly in line for a bumper new contract at Stamford Bridge and would apparently only consider leaving the club if Real Madrid or Barcelona call.

The French World Cup winner was heavily linked with Paris Saint-Germain during the summer, only to show little interest in walking away from Chelsea.

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With his current contract due to expire in 2021, French media outlet Le 10 Sport speaks of an impending offer to extend his deal to 2023 with a ‘clear salary increase’.

Kante has thrived at Chelsea over the last two seasons since bursting onto the scene as a Premier League winner with Leicester and the report claims that he never wished to leave during the summer – with there being only two clubs in the world that could tempt him to reconsider.

They are Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. Whether either would be interested in making an offer could depend on how the next few months pan out.

Real star Luka Modric has recently been linked with Inter for the second time since summer and his departure would leave Los Blancos with a hole to fill in midfield. Yet Kante, who is similar to existing Bernabeu destroyer Casemiro, isn’t really the right player for that role.

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His energy could certainly benefit Barcelona, although with eyes on strengthening in defence, as well as on Paul Pogba and now also a potential return for Neymar, there is unlikely to be the money available that would allow the club to buy Kante as well.

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