Russian Champion Zenit Signs Hulk, Witsel From Portuguese Clubs

Russian soccer champion Zenit St. Petersburg signed Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel from Portuguese clubs on five-year contracts.

Zenit announced both acquisitions on its website late yesterday without disclosing financial details. Hulk, 26, joins Zenit after four seasons at Porto, where he won three Portuguese league titles, three Portuguese Cups and the 2011 Europa League.

Zenit will pay as much as 60 million euros ($75.7 million) for Hulk, Portuguese news agency Lusa cited his agent, Teodoro Fonseca, as saying. Such a fee would make Hulk the second-most expensive Brazilian player after Real Madrid paid 65 million euros for Kaka in 2009, according to Infostrada Sports.

Zenit will pay Benfica 40 million euros for Witsel after triggering a buyout clause in his contract, the Portuguese club said in a statement last night on its website.

The 23-year-old Witsel, who’s played 30 times for the Belgian national team, spent a season at Benfica after joining from Standard Liege.

Both players were included in Zenit’s 25-man squad for Europe’s elite Champions League, where it will face AC Milan, Malaga and Anderlecht in Group C.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes in Sydney at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at

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