Juventus have emerged as surprise candidates to sign Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel from Zenit St Petersburg, according to Belgian site DH.Be, despite the player previously expressing a fondness for Manchester United.
The 26-year-old had been linked with a move to Old Trafford in recent weeks by sources including the Mirror, after hinting at a potential move to the Red Devils during an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report.
Quizzed on whether he would consider joining compatriots like Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini and Eden Hazard with a move to the English top flight, Witsel said:
"... It’s true that I like the Premier League, because it is one of the best leagues in the world...
... A lot of my colleagues play there, but we will see. I am still young, only 26. We’ll see in the future. I have always liked Manchester United from when I was young."
With no bid forthcoming from the Red Devils, one Belgian news source, DH.Be is now claiming that Serie A giants Juventus could be set to enter the race to recruit the former Standard Liege and Benfica star.
No fee has yet been mentioned in any reports, but with current club Zenit previously shelling out £32.5 million to bring the player from Portugal to Russia back in September 2012, it’s likely that a blockbuster bid would be required.
Witsel has racked up 54 caps for Belgium to date, scoring six goals along the way, and was part of the national side that progressed to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Brazil.
Back in 2008 he was named Belgian Young Footballer of the Year and also claimed the Belgian Golden Shoe in the same campaign as the best player in the country’s top flight.