Axel Witsel, Simeone’s perfect marshal | Soccer | Sports

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Signed as a midfielder, no one doubts at Atlético de Madrid that Axel Witsel (Liege, 35 years old) has become their best center back. In the season under the direction of Diego Pablo Simeone when the team defends the worst, Witsel has achieved that widespread recognition. Since he arrived at Atlético in the summer of 2022, the Belgian has played 55 games as a defender and is the only red and white defender who, with at least 30 games played, did not make a single error that led to a shot, a goal from the rival or a penalty, according to data from the company Opta. A footballer whose performances in the tie with Inter Milan have been fundamental for Atlético to reach the quarterfinals is not remembered for a mistake. His game at San Siro impacted Simeone and his teammates. He not only defended his field, he also swept left and right and won numerous duels with Lautaro Martínez and Thuram above and below. The Cup match against Real Madrid, with the requirement of having to pay close attention to Vinicius, also caused a sensation in the booth.

The coach privately praises his professionalism and congratulates himself on the conversion he achieved a few weeks after landing at the club. Witsel is the Atlético outfield player who has played the most minutes (3,351) in all competitions. There is no player over 30 years old in the five major European leagues who has been on the pitch more.

Simeone predicted that as a center back he could perform well and prolong his career due to the less physical wear and tear it implies compared to the midfield position. Cholo applied the football eye that identifies midfielders who, due to their sense of the game, can play in the axis of defense. He also looked for the Argentine to have a good foot to get the ball out from behind and Witsel is very confident in the pass due to a technique polished in his days as a futsal player. The coach praises Witsel for his tactical intelligence and his speed of thinking to make up for his lack of speed when facing fast forwards. The teams try to charge their attacks through their zone, but they encounter a wall that he anticipates when they look for him from below and appears dominant in the head game. He is the Atlético player who wins the most aerial duels.

The performance that Witsel is offering is so high that even Simeone doubts, due to his age, that he can sustain it. His contract ends on June 30 and he does not have a number of games clause that automatically renews it. Simeone is in favor of his continuity, as long as it does not mean that the club hides behind it to not renew the defense.

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