Juventus look set to miss out on their long-term transfer target Axel Witsel with the Belgian midfielder poised to join Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian.
The 27-year-old had previously hinted he would be happy to link up with the Serie A champions at the end of his contract with current club Zenit, but he appears to have been tempted by a January move to China instead.
Quoted in Tuttosport, Witsel said: “It’s been a very difficult choice, because on one hand I had an offer from a great club like Juventus, but I also had an offer I could not turn down for my family’s sake.
“The Bianconeri have always been great with me and I can’t be anything but grateful for that. I will support Juventus and I hope they can win the Champions League. And who knows what will happen in the future, maybe we’ll cross paths once again.”
Witsel will link up with Fabio Cannavaro at Tianjin Quanjian, and earn a reported €18 million annual salary over a four-year contract.
Belgium international Witsel has won one Russian Premier League title, one Russian Cup and two Russian Super Cups since joining Zenit from Benfica in 2012 in a move worth €40m.
But he will now leave Europe to play in the CSL, a competition which has been increasingly successful in attracting global talent.
Carlos Tevez completed a move to Shanghai Shenhua last month that reportedly makes him the world’s highest-paid footballer.