Did Everton dodge bullet in 2016 as Toffees fans slam Axel Witsel's World Cup showing?

Everton fans celebrate Chris Smalling of Manchester United's own goal by lighting a flare during The Emirates FA Cup semi final match between Everton and Manchester United at Wembley...

Everton very nearly brought Axel Witsel to the Premier League in 2016 but he is now playing in China and struggling at the World Cup for Belgium.

Axel Witsel of Tianjin Quanjian reacts during the AFC Champions League match between Kashiwa Reysol and Tianjin Quanjian at Sankyo Frontier Kashiwa Stadium on February 20, 2018 in Kashiwa,...

Everton were so close to signing Axel Witsel in that frustrating summer of 2016 in which seemingly all of their top targets turned down a move to Goodison Park.

The Mail reported two years ago, during Ronald Koeman’s first pre-season in charge of the Toffees, that Everton had agreed a £25 million deal to sign the Belgian international from Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg.

It is common knowledge now, however, that Witsel rejected the chance to move to Merseyside with the lack of European football understood to be a major factor. But, in truth, the 29-year-old has done very little in the two years since to suggest that £25 million would have been money well spent.

Belgium's midfielder Axel Witsel greets the crowd after their win in the Russia 2018 World Cup round of 16 football match between Belgium and Japan at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on...

A player who frittered away the peak of his career hoovering up the dosh at Zenit despite being linked frequently with some of Europe’s biggest clubs moved to China in 2017. And, with five months until his 30th birthday, Witsel could now have missed his chance to star in England.

Although if his performance in Belgium’s dramatic 3-2 World Cup comeback win against Japan is anything to go by, Everton might have dodged a bullet.

Witsel, bizarrely chosen ahead of Moussa Dembele by the much-maligned former Goodison gaffer Roberto Martinez, has looked a little out of his depth in Belgium’s star-studded XI all throughout the World Cup.

Japan's midfielder Takashi Inui (L) scores his team's second goal past Belgium's midfielder Axel Witsel during the Russia 2018 World Cup round of 16 football match between Belgium and...


Have something to tell us about this article?

Register for EVERTON team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch