Axel Laurent Angel Lambert Witsel, popularly known as Axel Witsel is a Belgian football player who was born on 12 January 1989 in Liège, Belgium.
Witsel primarily plays as a defensive midfielder as well as central midfielder. Although he can also play from quite a few more positions such as attacking midfield, right midfield, right-wing, right-back etc. Currently, he is playing for Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian and Belgium national team.
Witsel started off his football career by joining youth ranks and training academy of his hometown club Standard Liège. He played for the youth team of the club from 2004 to 2006 and then got promoted to the senior team.
Even before making his club debut, Witsel was acquired to play for the Belgium U-15 team and he had made his debut on 24 March 2004. Later he also represented Belgium at U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19 and U-21 levels.
Beginning his senior career on 17 September 2006, he came in the 89th minute of the game replacing Steven Defour in a 2-1 victory against FC Brussels. He made his UEFA Cup debut in his very second game for the club on 28 September 2006 against Celta de Vigo.
After gaining plenty of experience playing with the Belgium’s youth teams, Witsel made his international debut on 26 March 2008 in an friendly against Morocco. Though Belgium lost the match by 1-4 but Witsel had scored his first international goal in the match.
Rise to glory
Witsel’s rise came in the 2007-08 season of the Belgian League. He was a key player in the squad of Standard Liège and played almost every game of the league. Having him in the team, club won Belgian League title that year and he was awarded the Belgian Young Footballer of the Year. He had also grabbed Belgian Golden Shoe in the same year. He scored 45 goals for the club playing 194 games in his 7 years long career with Standard Liège.
On 13 July 2011, Witsel moved to Portuguese club Benfica and spend a season playing for the club. Playing with the club, he made central midfield strong as well as provided goals and assists in need. He played 52 games in that season and scored 5 goals with 6 significant assists.
Three years after his debut goal, Witsel scored his second international goal and this time in a competitive match of UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifiers against Austria. With the help his goal, Belgium succeeded in defeating Austria by 2-0.
On 13 May 2014, he was included in the team to play 2014 FIFA World Cup. In the very first game of the tournament, getting chance in starting eleven, he helped his team to defeat Algeria by 2-1.
He was also the member of Belgian team at UEFA Euro 2016. In a Group E match against Republic of Ireland, he led his team to victory scoring his first goal in the tournament.
Apart from Standard Liège and Benfica, Witsel has also served Russian club Zenit Saint Petersburg. With the club, he won Russian Football Premier League 2014-15, Russian Cup 2015-16 and Russian Super Cup in 2015, 2016. He played 180 games for the club and added 22 goals in his goal-tally.
On 3 January 2017, he officially joined his current team Tianjin Quanjian and played his first match on 4 March 2017 against Guangzhou R&F.
Witsel has played 37 games for his new club scoring 5 goals and providing 3 assists. In the international football, Witsel has represented Belgium in 87 games. Playing with his national team, he has got 9 goals in his name.