The ostensibly imminent departure of James Milner from Villa Park and Lorik Cana’s recent move from the Stadium Of Light to Turkish outfit Galatasaray has left both Aston Villa and Sunderland contemplating their options to replace their respective eminent personalities.
Now it appears that both have found their man, only it seems that both are pursuing the same player.
That player, according to reports, is Axel Witsel and, although he sounds like a car product, Witsel is highly regarded among the highest echelons of the Belgian league. Currently a custodian of Standard Leige – the team with which has been since the inception of his career, the 21-year-old has already received high accolades, including the Belgian Young Footballer of the Year in 2007-08 and the Belgian Golden Shoe in 2008.
Preceding a rather torrid recent season, in which Standard Liege often struggled before finishing fifth, Witsel had helped his club to two previous, successive league titles in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
In that most recent season though, Witsel has lost his way slightly. The Belgian found himself banned for a total of eight league matches following a horrific challenge on Marcin Wasilewski, breaking the Polish defender’s fibula and tibia.
After a return in October, scoring against Club Brugge and Lokeren, the Belgian international was sent off once again in a 4-0 home drubbing by Anderlecht.
It’s needless to say that his temperament has made him a likely candidate to leave the Belgian side in the summer.
Yet, the central midfielder has proven himself quite adept at the high end of the game, producing numerous competent performances in Europe, and that has raised the interest of several Premier League clubs, the latest of which being Steve Bruce’s Sunderland and Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa.
The youngster has also previously been linked with a move to Everton, against whom he scored in a UEFA Cup tie two years previously.
Although speculation has gone no further than to suggest that the two Premier League clubs are concurrently considering their options with Witsel, it’s unlikely that Standard Liege will be willing to part ways with their midfield prodigy for anything less than £8million.
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