“Players are going to Arabia for money”, the star of Atletico Madrid talks about the phenomenon of the “flight” of players to the Middle East


Atletico Madrid veteran Axel Witsel has called on players moving to Saudi Arabia to be honest about the motivation behind their decision.

The Belgian, who has been moved back to centre-back from his usual midfield position by Diego Simeone, has confirmed that he is still very much enjoying life in Madrid despite this change in position.

“Three or four games at the most in Dortmund. But not in a lineup of three, it was with two, which is a little more difficult. It was really last year when I started playing almost always in this position, something new for me,” said Witsel.

Asked about the difference between playing in defense or midfield, Witsel admitted he went through an adjustment process.

“In the middle of the field everything is more natural. I know where to cover my partner, I run. It’s going well. In defense at the beginning, I had to think a lot. Not with the ball because you have everything in front of you, but to defend yourself. I had to change my speed a bit to anticipate the opponent,” he said in an interview with Diario AS.


Witsel was also asked about his transfer to TJ Quanjian at the age of 25 and did not hide the reason why he did it.

“If I were to go back, I would do the same thing. You have to tell the truth: the players who went to China then, like those who go to Arabia now, are doing it because they get a lot of money. And I understand that,” said Witsel.

Players such as Jordan Henderson, recently booed by English fans for his move to Saudi Arabia, and young Spanish talent Gabri Veiga were adamant they did not make the move for money.