Russian soccer champion Zenit St. Petersburg signed Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel for a combined fee of at least $100 million from Portuguese clubs on five-year contracts.
Porto said in a filing to the Portuguese stock exchange it will receive 40 million euros ($50 million) for 85 percent of the economic rights it holds for 26-year-old Hulk. Benfica, which is also listed on the Lisbon exchange, said it would also get 40 million euros for Witsel, 23.
Hulk joins Zenit after winning three Portuguese league titles, three Portuguese Cups and the 2011 Europa League since joining Porto for 19 million euros in 2008. Witsel only moved to Portugal from Standard Liege for 8 million euros last season.
Portuguese news agency Lusa cited his agent, Teodoro Fonseca, said Hulk’s transfer to Zenit was worth as much as 60 million euros. 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.
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.
Zenit, bankrolled by Russia’s natural-gas monopoly OAO Gazprom, is top of the country’s championship and has been linked with bids for a number of other players, including Manchester United winger Nani.
While Hulk trades Portugal for Russia, an investigation into his move to Porto by soccer’s governing body remains on-going.
The striker, whose real name is Givanildo Vieira de Sousa, moved to Europe via Rentistas, a Uruguay-based club for which he never played.
Rentistas got 19 million euros from trading 90 percent of the rights of Hulk to Porto in two tranches in 2008 and 2011, according to stock-market filings by the Portuguese team at the time. Rentistas President Mario Bursztyn said in a Feb. 8 interview the transfer fee in such a deal is redirected to a company owned by player agent Juan Figer called Lamico. Bursztyn said the club gets a monthly retainer fee from Figer in return. Figer follows all the rules of his profession, his spokesman Jose Aparecida Miguel said.