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.
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.
Not signing Witsel was probably the best bit of business we’ve done for a while #EFC— Liam (@James47Liam) July 2, 2018
What's the point of Witsel? He's like a slightly better Morgan Schneiderlin. Martinez still playing the same tactics— Lee Murray (@LeeMurrayEFC) July 2, 2018
I remember when Martinez spent a life time chasing Witsel to come to Everton— Rich (@richtee83) July 2, 2018
He turned us down for the Chinese Sunday league mega money
Now Martinez fulfils his dream . . Whilst playing him ahead of Dembele
As he’d say Phenomenal
Hahhahahahahahahhahhahahha Belgium— MOJO JOJO (@MuhammadMayet) July 2, 2018
I knew Martinez wasn't the right manager for them, his playing witsel in a pivot instead of naingollan and carrasco isn't even a wingback.
He got fired by Everton What do you expect
Witsel tho. What on Earth has he got on manager after manager to keep getting picked...— Paul Riley (@footballfactman) July 2, 2018
Never seen him have a good game... 93 caps— . (@squinn92) July 2, 2018