Chelsea & Everton battle for £25m rated Axel Witsel

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Chelsea have joined Everton in the race to sign Belgian international, Axel Witsel, 27.

AS Roma’s rejection a third bid for Radja Nainngolan, 28, means new Blues boss Antonio Conte has been forced to look elsewhere as he seeks to strengthen his squad.

Witsel is a key member of Marc Wilmots squad which has recovered from a poor showing against Italy to reach the Euro 2016 quarter-finals where they face Wales.

The experienced international has 69 caps to his name since scoring on his debut against Morocco in 2008. He has since netted six more times, including the second in Belgium’s 3 – 0 win over Republic of Ireland in the Euro 2016 group phase.

Everton had been quietly working in the background on a deal to take the steely midfielder to Goodison Park from Zenit St Petersburg but fear Chelsea’s interest will spark a bidding war. Witsel joined the Russian club in 2012 for €40m and his good performances in France are likely to see his price rise beyond that level.

His time at Standard became mired in controversy when he stamped on Marcin Wasilewski’s ankle during a tempestuous clash with Anderlecht. Banned for three months – later reduced to eight games on appeal – Witsel saw Arsenal’s interest at the time fade as questions over his temperament were raised.

His subsequent success in Russia and performances for the national team have seen them answered emphatically. A move to the Premier League seems certain this summer, if Zenit don’t frighten off suitors with their fee demands.

 

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