By Amir Mir
Everton have been dealt a blow as transfer target Axel Witsel has confirmed he will stay at Zenit St Petersburg this season.
The Belgium midfielder has been a £25million transfer target for the Merseyside club all summer with manager Ronald Koeman reportedly chasing his signature.
But, the dynamic midfielder confirmed on Thursday morning to Russian journalist Stefano Conforti that his desire is to stay in Russia for one more season.
“I think it’s better for me to stay at Zenit for another year,” said Witsel as quoted on Conforti’s personal Twitter account. “After that, we’ll see.”
The Daily Mail reported that the Toffees had agreed a £25 million deal for Witsel’s services earlier this summer as his Zenit manager Mircea Lucescu confirmed on the 30th July that the 27-year-old had wanted to leave the club.
“I don’t know whether I’ll stay at Zenit or not when my contract runs out,” said Witsel at the time. “Italy or England? I don’t have a preference.”
Witsel’s U-turn was highlighted by Conforti.
Witsel signed for the Russian club from Portuguese side Benfica in 2012 for a fee of £34 million, where the Standard Liège youth player has gone on to play 107 games for Zenit during his four-year period.
Koeman has already signed midfielder Idrissa Gueye for £7.1 million from Aston Villa, with Wales captain Ashley Williams making a £9 million switch from Swansea on Wednesday evening after John Stones made a £47.5 million move to Manchester City.
In other Everton transfer news, club legend Tim Cahill has agreed a coaching role with an MLS Club.