East Asia China

Roberto Martinez: China-based Axel Witsel remains a key player for Belgium

Belgium national team head coach Roberto Martinez says Axel Witsel will remain a key player for Les Diables Rouges, despite making the move to China in January.

The former Benfica midfielder joined Tianjin Quanjian from Zenit St Petersburg in the Winter transfer window – a move which reportedly earns him €18 million annually.

Witsel admitted that the big-money contract was a key reason to him making the move, but insisted that he would still have enough motivation to play for the Belgium national team.

And in a recent interview, Roberto Martinez says he understand money is an important factor for Witsel’s decision to join a Chinese club and believes that the former Zenit St. Petersburg footballer remains a “very important player” for the national team.

“Money plays a role in every job, particularly in football. That will certainly have been an important factor in Axel’s decision, but you have to look beyond that: he’s now a very important player in a new project”, Martinez told local newspapers.

“He’s going to want to repay the faith shown in him by his bosses. Time will tell, but I’m confident Axel will maintain his thirst for victory to remain an important player for Belgium. At Zenit, in Russia, he never dropped his level, so I don’t see a problem,” he added.