It seems they all have their reasons for doing so. The temptation to travel the world and explore the world. Meeting new people. An escape from everyday stresses and the mundane.
As a forward, Witsel’s duties meant he was accustomed to running off at the mouth. He was booked for swearing in midweek against Barcelona and had a bitter scrap with rival Ricardo Rodriguez in September.
But his level-headedness, coupled with his diligence, will serve him well over the remainder of his career.
“The teams in China are always united, as it’s a club. If you do well, everyone looks after you. Here I was surprised that I couldn’t get a place in the team,” Witsel said.
“You don’t always play, but you have to be ready to play. You have to do work every day. As a player you can always train and give every energy you have. That’s important for a player, to have this rhythm.”
‘I’m still young, I can still have a lot of years in football’
Witsel has signed a deal to remain with Tianjin TEDA until 2024
The agent of Axel Witsel, Paul Rantzen, revealed the midfielder wants to finish his career at a club where he feels “comfortable”.
“He doesn’t need money. When I spoke to him, he said, ‘I love Tianjin, it’s a nice city, my family likes it and I know I’m comfortable here.
“What do I need money for? I’m still young, I can still have a lot of years in football, I can play in Europe and I love China’.
“And I think that’s what he’ll do, that’s what his future will be like, that’s what his career will be like.”
Familiar foes on the other side of the Atlantic
In September, when both sides were in action in the Champions League, Witsel chose to skip an eagerly-anticipated clash at Shanghai SIPG and instead ran into the building next door for a practice session.
“I had played against SIPG and I was in the gym training with the club, and I saw the room that the team was playing in. They didn’t like me coming so they could work hard there.
“I had to go to another room so it could all continue. I knew it was Shanghai and I knew I would never see any of them again.
“Now I’ve played them, I know that they are an entertaining team. They play good football and they will score a lot of goals. And they are dangerous on the counter-attack as well. I am going to have to see what they will do next season, but I am going to have to watch out for them.”