While the transfer market has closed in most of Europe, it is still open in Russia, and Zenit St Petersburg announced their Champions League intentions with a sensational double swoop today for Porto striker Hulk and Benfica’s Axel Witsel for a combined £70million.
“It’s now official. Both players had signed five-year deals,” Zenit spokesman Dmitry Tsimmerman was reported as saying by Rueters.
“We were trying to sign them before the September 3 deadline for the Champions League so they can play for us in that competition as well as the Russian league.”
Witsel had been heavily linked with a summer move to Real Madrid, but the former Standard Liege man, who has represented Belgium at every age group signed, has now made the move to Zenit for a reported £30 million from Benfica.
The 26-year-old Hulk, who has long been a target for Chelsea, surprised everyone by agreeing to five year contract after the Russian Premier League leaders coughed up a reported €50million (£39.6m) to secure the frontman.
Last week, Porto president Pinto da Costa revealed he had turned down an offer worth €50m from Zenit for the powerful forward, but a deal has now been reached by the two clubs.
Hulk scored 21 goals in all competitions last season and played a crucial role in Porto’s Europa League title-winning campaign in 2010-11.
The addition of Witsel and Hulk has to make Zenit the favourites to win their Champions League group which includes AC Milan, Anderlecht and Malaga.