Atletico Madrid are all set to announce the signing of Belgian midfielder, Axel Witsel on a free transfer. He played for four seasons at Borussia Dortmund and made 143 appearances where he scored 13 goals and assisted six more. During his time at North Rhine-Westphalia, he was part of the squad that won the DFB Pokal in 2020-21 and the DFL Supercup in 2019. Prior to his spell at Dortmund, he played for Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian. Though he is a naturally defensive midfielder, he has played as a right-winger and as an attacking midfielder in his early days.
Witsel played 40 games for Borussia Dortmund across all competitions last season, including all six in the UEFA Champions League. He was on the pitch for 471 minutes. During that time, he was a very active man in the game, attempting just below 55 passes per 90 at an astonishing accuracy of 93.36%. Witsel was also competent in progressing the ball, completing more than 92% of his balls into the final third from just over seven attempts per 90.
Witsel tried slightly under 10 defensive actions per 90 for Borussia Dortmund in the UCL, but he had an 83.33% win rate, putting the Belgian in the top quintile of midfielders. He used his 186 cm height to his advantage, attempting nearly three aerial duels every 90 and winning 64.71% of them. Half of the loose ball duels he contested were also recovered by the midfielder. The midfielder accomplished 4.89 interceptions per 90 and 9.42 recoveries per 90. Additionally, he showed his pressing ability high up the pitch by making 4.71 recoveries in the opponent’s half per 90.
Witsel was a key man in the midfield for Borussia Dortmund, as seen in the heat map above. He frequently passed the ball to the creative individuals in front of him, such as Jude Bellingham and Marco Reus, to name a few. He also passed the ball to the advancing full-backs when required. Defensively, Witsel attempted 14.2 pressures per 90, 3.46 tackles and interceptions per 90, 1.54 clearances per 90 and 1.35 blocks per 90.
With a pass accuracy of more than 92%, Witsel opted to play the ball safe and therefore was dependable for the team as he rarely misplaced passes in dangerous areas of the pitch. He completed 6.15 passes into the attacking third per 90, 3.46 progressive passes per 90 and 3.85 progressive carries per 90 during his time on the pitch.
Axel Witsel’s stint at Borussia Dortmund was a success on the field, but it wasn’t enough for the club to overtake Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. Nevertheless, he would be an excellent short-term option in the midfield at the Wanda Metropolitano. However, according to some reports, Atletico Madrid are struggling to register him due to the salary restrictions placed by LaLiga.