Manchester United Transfer Rumours: Why Axel Witsel Is Not Worth the Money
Just as Frank Sinatra once sang, “It’s that time of year when the world falls in love.”
Now, perhaps the lyrics were originally intended for Christmas, and surely the summer transfer window doesn’t exactly inspire world unity. Nevertheless, it sure does fill you with that warm, fuzzy feeling deep down in your gut.
With the transfer window comes transfer rumours, and while the vast, vast majority will never prove themselves true, there are those that always carry some serious weight.
One such piece of gossip is the story that Benfica’s Axel Witsel could be on his way to Old Trafford (via talkSPORT).
Last year, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were on the trail of the Belgian international but ultimately lost out in the race, conceding defeat to their Portuguese opposition.
Back then, the midfielder left Standard Liege for a fairly meager £6.3m.
However, reports have emerged of late, promoting the idea that Benfica are ready to sell their midfield enforcer but for no less than a staggering sum of £20m—almost four times the amount they paid for his signature barely 12 months ago.
With Belgium popping up as a nation to watch in the coming years, it’s not surprising to see more and more of their stars moving to top clubs.
For instance, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Thibault Courtois are all on the books at Chelsea.
That being said, Witsel isn’t quite on the same level, price-wise, as some of his superstar compatriots. Despite the surge in spotlight attention, he isn’t worthy of the steep price tag placed upon him, and here’s why.
Sir Alex Ferguson, for some time now, has stood firm on his transfer policy and refuses to buy in a market that, in his words, shows no value.
In short, if a club are asking for too much money for a particular player, “Fergie” simply won’t budge. This approach isn’t likely to change, even in these waning years of the manager’s career at Old Trafford.
The first and most pertinent reason that Witsel isn’t worth the money is just that: the money.
Another example we could use is Robin van Persie.
After refusing to sign a contract extension, it seems the Dutchman is destined for an Emirates exit soon and is being linked with a £20m exit.
While RVP may be five years older than Witsel, he’s a Premier League Golden Boot winner and undoubtedly of an altogether higher value than the youngster.
For some reason though, the two are being touted around as having the same price tag. Football’s a crazy game at times, eh?
Jordi Alba just went to Barcelona for £12m, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has a reported release clause of £16m (via the Daily Mail) and there are even more deals out there that would cost less than Benfica’s estimation of Witsel but would undoubtedly produce bigger results.
Do you think Axel Witsel is worth the £20m price-tag?
This isn’t to say that the money for the 23-year-old’s purchase wouldn’t be there if needed, but the “value” that Ferguson seeks in the transfer market is certainly there to be had.
The other question one would ask of Witsel’s apparent availability is just why he’s suddenly up for sale.
Clearly, Benfica are keen to make a 200 percent profit on the star whose contributions to their cause run as deep as 49 appearances. But surely there’s more to this decision than just good business.
If Witsel was that talented and, in accordance, that valuable a player, then surely any club would be as eager as possible to keep that within their ranks.
This is especially true if you consider that the starlet's contract still has another four years to run.
Whether it’s a case of Benfica seeing less in their player than other clubs or perhaps some dissent within their own ranks, Witsel’s sudden availability just doesn’t quite sit well.
Moving back to Kagawa slightly, a big part of Witsel’s appeal is his youth.
At 23 years old, the anchorman is still young enough for Ferguson to mould—as he has done in the past on so many occasions—but old enough to have developed on his own into a valuable asset.
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Kagawa is the same age as his Belgian counterpart–strictly speaking, he’s two months younger–and yet the former has two Bundesliga titles, a DFB Pokal crown and numerous individual accolades to his name.
Witsel earned a decent amount of silverware during his time at Standard Liege, as well as a Taça da Liga title from his first season in Portugal.
When the two are compared, it’s fair to say that Kagawa emerges as the clear victor, and given the prominent role he played at Borussia Dortmund, Witsel’s valuation begins to sound all the more absurd.
To summarise, Benfica’s youngster is so far untested in a league such as England’s top flight and would assuredly be a risk on which to splurge such a large amount.
Granted, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani came from the Portuguese league but were substantially younger at the time and didn't even cost as much. They evolved into remarkable players.
Last, but most definitely not least, is the case of importance to the club.
For months now, the role of creative midfielder has been the main void in need of filling at Old Trafford.
With Shinji Kagawa, it’s safe to say that the gap is now occupied by an outrageously promising player who is looking more valuable by the second, despite not having played a minute in Red Devil colours.
Now, it’s presumed that the Premier League giants will look at other areas of the pitch in need of improvement and defensive midfield may not be of the highest priority.
Hiroki Watanabe/Getty Images
No matter who’s been linked with a move away from the club, Manchester United still have Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Anderson, Tom Cleverley, Paul Scholes and Phil Jones amongst their ranks, all of whom are capable of operating from defensive midfield.
Considering aging members of the team, the striking areas, centre-back and both full-back positions are arguably the highest priorities now and need to be considered first.
With Benfica willing to sell, a fracas is sure to ensue regarding the sale of Axel Witsel, and confrontational terms, such as “bidding war”, “battle” and “fight”, are sure to be used more and more in the coming months.
“It’s that time of the year when the world falls in love.”
You couldn’t have said it any better, Frank.
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