Opinion

In the summer of 2016, Chinese football took off like an unexpected firework at the end of a display or celebration.

One minute the Chinese Super League was ignored, not taken seriously and all in all not included in any meaningful football conversation, then all of a sudden it exploded into life like a forgotten firework at the end of a display.

The world began to take notice when Brazilian superstar Hulk, was one of the first major superstars to head for Asia and he arrived with an enormous price tag of around 55 million euros.

Four months later and seemingly under the radar his former Zenit teammate, Axel Witsel, agreed to join Tianjin Quanjian where he pocketed a whopping £300,000 a week.

The move to China is a move which is often considered as being the final move a footballer makes and it is usually a final payday as the hourglass of their football career comes towards an end.

However, this is definitely not the case for Axel Witsel as he had just agreed to join Borussia Dortmund for 20 million Euros.

The transfer was problematic and a legal dispute was needed to convince the Chinese club to sell to the eight-time German champions.

Witsel will give Dortmund experience and a bite which is desperately needed in their midfield.

At 29-years old he is at the peak of his career and is well-experienced in the game.

He will act as the defensive blanket in front of Lucien Favre’s back four and his domineering presence (not to mention spectacular afro) could be the difference between a successful and poor season.

With the likes of Christian Pulisic, Mario Gotze, Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus, the Dortmund midfield was high in creativity and pace but desperately low on midfield steel and experience.

The importance of these two characteristics cannot be underestimated and their absence was highly evident last season.

It was exposed by the likes of Tottenham and Real Madrid in the Champion’s League and it was even more suspect in the closing stages of the season where BVB only won one of their last five matches.

When Dortmund lost 6-0 to Bayern Munich Gonzalo Castro and Mahmoud Dahoud were tortured by Javi Martinez and James Rodriguez – Castro was even substituted after 29 minutes.

Midfield is arguably the most important area of the field and if you are not winning the midfield battle then it is very likely that you’ll lose the game.

However, having played in Portugal, Russia and China, the Bundesliga will be the toughest league Witsel has ever played in.

It may take him a while to get used to the pace and intensity of the league, which could result in him getting caught out by opposition counter-attacks.

But, he made six appearances for Belgium in the World Cup this year and he even forced Roma powerhouse Radja Nainggolan out of their final squad for the tournament.

He will slot in nicely next to Julian Weigl at defensive midfield which will mean Nuri Sahin will most likely be dropped.

Witsel will be the perfect mentor for Weigl, who at only 22-years old will only get better and better.

The Belgian midfielders vision and passing abilities are also very high, meaning he will probably be the best passer Dortmund have had since Ilkay Gundogan donned the famous yellow and black jersey.

In today’s market, 20 million euros is a steal for a player of his experience and ability.

If Dortmund mounts a successful title challenge or performs well in the Champion’s League then it could potentially be the signing of the season.