Witsel didn’t retire after China move, insists he is a good player

Axel Witsel (left) completed his transfer from Belgian outfit Anderlecht to Tianjin Quanjian earlier this month. AFP/Getty Images

Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel says that he did not stop playing after his move to China last week because of a desire to play for some of the best teams in the world.

The 30-year-old completed his transfer from Belgian outfit Anderlecht to Tianjin Quanjian earlier this month but confirmed the move before the transfer deal was completed, allowing the Romanian club to loan him out to various sides.

He has since come through the club’s own ranks after joining an unofficial trial against Oostende in the Belgian League on Saturday and has seen plenty of practice as he has had a look at clubs like Inter Milan, Juventus and Liverpool, though the latter is also in contention for his signature.

But despite having two weeks to adjust to life in China and the likelihood of also starting the Asian Champions League with the likes of AC Milan and Arsenal along the way, the 30-year-old has insisted that he was not tempted to retire after signing for the Chinese Super League giants.

“It was an ambitious project,” Witsel said at the Crystal Palace press conference ahead of the 3-1 defeat by the Chinese side on Saturday.

“When you announce a new contract, it is not easy for your agent to convince you to stay on board or even extend your contract because they normally ask for the best out of you. I had very clear reactions about the Premier League. There were a lot of big clubs interested in me and I chose to join Tianjin Quanjian because I had opportunities to play for some of the biggest teams. It has been an amazing learning process for me.

“I wanted to learn more, improve, and I feel I have made a very good decision.”

The midfielder, who helped Spartak Moscow win the Russian League, has already played 17 times for the hosts this season and has also had stints with Lyon, Bournemouth and Saint-Etienne among others.

He will have a return match against former club Anderlecht later this month.

Tianjin Quanjian earned a 2-0 victory over Manchester City in the Club World Cup semi-finals last December after trouncing AC Milan 4-1 in the previous round. They then faced Kawasaki Frontale in the final and went down 2-1.

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