Atletico Madrid midfielder Axel Witsel says players leaving Europe for Saudi Arabia and China do it for 'the money'

Witsel Bernabéu Atlético MadridGetty Images
  • Witsel moves to China
  • Returns to Europe
  • Explains why players choose Saudi transfer

WHAT HAPPENED? Axel Witsel has claimed players moving to the Saudi Pro League 'only go there for the money' after the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane all swapped top clubs across Europe for the Middle East.

WHAT THEY SAID: "Each of us has our own path. I'm not saying it was bad to leave for Saudi Arabia, I went to China when I was 27. He did well, for me it was a life experience," Witsel said via SPORTface.

"Obviously we go there for money, we don't have to talk about the sports project. It's the truth, Carrasco did it and that's fine with me."

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: Witsel joined Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian from Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2017, where he went to make just 36-appearances for the Tianjin based side, before moving back to Europe in 2018 after joining Borussia Dortmund. At the time of his move to China, there was a similar period of high-profile recruitment as other top players made the same switch in search of higher wages.


Karim Benzema Al-Ittihad 2023-24Getty ImagesCristiano Ronaldo Al-Nassr 2023-24Getty ImagesAxel Witsel AtleticoAtletico

WHAT NEXT FOR WITSEL? The Belgian midfielder has featured in the majority of games for Atletico Madrid this season, including the recent 1-1 draw with Lazio in the Champions League. Witsel will now be looking ahead to the upcoming derby against local rivals Real Madrid on Sunday evening.