Belguim's World Cup midfielder Axel Witsel rejected the opportunity to join Manchester United this summer, according to the player's agent, Paul Stefani.
Witsel left China to join Dortmund earlier this summer on a four-year deal but according to his agent, he was pursued by two other major clubs at the time. Upon learning of Witsel's desire to leave Tianjin Quanjian, Stefani began to inform European clubs of the 29-year-old's low release clause and when he told Dortmund, they were extremely keen.
I explained to them that the Portuguese lawyer of Witsel has negotiated a buy-out clause of €20m with Tianjin. That sounded like music to them, because they thought that Tianjin would ask for an amount of around €60m for Axel. When the transfer later started rolling, the Chinese still tried to get out of that buyout clause, but it was conclusive.
"There were other candidates. Manchester United wanted him, Napoli too. But I told Axel: 'At Dortmund you are the number one, at Manchester you are one of the many... and at Napoli too.'
In the end, the prospect of being United's second choice persuaded Witsel to opt for Germany. His agent revealed it was Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante who was their primary target: "I know from a very good source that Mourinho said he wanted Witsel, but not in the first place. N'Golo Kante topped his list. Eventually Axel said: 'Do me a favour and finish it as quickly as possible because I really want to go to Dortmund'."
Manchester United did sign Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant earlier this summer but there is increasing unrest at the lack of transfers with the window deadline fast approaching.