Russian Premier League

Zenit sign Hulk, Axel Witsel

September 3, 2012
By ESPN.com news services

Zenit St. Petersburg bolstered its squad Monday, signing Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel to five-year deals and paying transfer fees reportedly worth a combined 80 million euros ($100.7 million) to their Portuguese clubs.

no_source / Francisco Leong/AFP/GettyImagesThe 26-year-old Hulk scored 54 goals in 103 league matches after signing with Porto in 2008.

Zenit didn't disclose the transfer fees it paid to Portuguese rivals Porto and Benfica, respectively, but Reuters, citing a team source, reported that the Russian club paid 40 million euros for each player.

The 26-year-old Hulk joined Porto from Japanese side Tokyo Verdy and scored 54 goals in 103 league matches after signing in 2008.

Witsel, a 23-year-old midfielder, only joined Benfica in 2011 from his hometown club Standard Liege, where he started his career in 2006.

"We were trying to sign them before the Sept. 3 deadline for the Champions League so they can play for us in that competition as well as the Russian league," Zenit spokesman Dmitry Tsimmerman told Reuters.

Zenit was drawn last week in Group C of the Champions League along with AC Milan, Anderlecht and Malaga.

Hulk has acquired 13 caps for his country and was linked with a move to Chelsea.

Zenit said on its website that Hulk will wear No. 29 for the team.

Information from Press Association was used in this report.