One of Zenit's two new 40-million-euro signings, Axel Witsel, promises to work off every penny the St. Pete side stumped up for him.
“It’s not up to me to say whether I’m worth 40 million euro or not,” Witsel said at a press-conference with the Belgian national team. “You have to ask the person who bought me. For me, it’s proof that Zenit really wanted me and have trust in me. And it’s up to me when I go there to do the maximum for the club.”
The 23-year-old joined Zenit from Portuguese football powerhouse Benfica on a five-year deal, becoming the third-biggest European transfer of the summer.
The midfielder is expected to arrive at his new club after his national team’s meeting with Wales and Croatia on September 7 and 11, respectively.
“I’ve played twice against Zenit – first when I was playing for Standard Liege, then the second time for Benfica,” he told Zenit’s official website. “I knew even before moving that Zenit is a really good team…I think the thing is that Zenit has an Italian coach. Italians pay a lot of attention to defense. You can feel that in Zenit. The team has a lot of good players, like Shirokov, and a forward whose name I can’t pronounce [Kerzhkov].”
Witsel comes to St. Petersburg with another big-name from the Portuguese league – Porto striker Hulk, with Zenit paying over 80 million euro for the two players.
“In fact, I was marking Hulk in Benfica`s matches against Porto, and I said even then that he’s a very strong, high-quality player,” the Belgian stressed. “It’s really great to play in one team with him. He knows how to take quick decisions, win loose balls, and he has very good dribbling. Furthermore, he’s very strong. So it wasn’t very easy for me to play against him. It was a lot easier for us when he didn’t play against Benfica. He’s very dangerous.”
The player says he moved to St. Petersburg to win, being sure his pairing with Hulk will become a huge boost to the club in the Champions League.
“We have all the necessary qualities and good players to be successful and win our group. We’ll see on the pitch how everything comes together,” he stressed.
The St. Pete side are drawn against AC Milan, Belgium’s Anderlecht and Malaga from the Spanish La Liga in the UEFA Champions League.