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Zenit St Petersburg spend big to sign Hulk and Witsel

September 4, 2012 -- Updated 1406 GMT (2206 HKT)
Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel joined Zenit from Porto and Benfica.
Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel joined Zenit from Porto and Benfica.
  • Russian club Zenit sign Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Alex Witsel
  • Zenit's transfer dealings make them third biggest spending club in Europe behind Chelsea and PSG
  • Zenit will play Malaga, AC Milan and Anderlecht in their Champions League group
  • Fenerbahce have completed the £8m signing of Raul Meireles from Chelsea

Russian club Zenit St Petersburg joined Europe's biggest spending clubs of the summer transfer window after splashing out a reported $101m to sign Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel from Portuguese clubs Porto and Benfica.

The 26-year-old Hulk, who played for Brazil during the 2012 Olympics, joined Zenit on a five-year contract in a transfer deal worth $50.7m, while the 23-year-old Witsel signed for a similar fee and length of contract.

Those two signings pushed Zenit's spending to over $132m for the 2012/2013 season just behind English Premier League club Chelsea ($140m) and French side Paris St Germain ($206m).

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Hulk, whose full name is Givanildo Vieira de Souza, joined Porto in 2008 from Tokyo Verdy after scoring 54 goals in 103 league matches for the Japanese club.

Following his move to Portugal, the Brazilian won three league titles with Porto, the Portuguese Cup and Super Cup as well as the Europa League title.

"This is another important victory, another important step in my life," Hulk, who has played 14 times for Brazil, told the Zenit website.

"But I have to say that I`m thankful to Porto for the opportunity to open doors for me in Russia. I was very happy in Portugal.

"I want to be happy in Zenit, and in Russia too. I want to work in that direction: to get victories and win many titles, just like it was in Porto."

Hulk added: "At first I wanted to play as number 12, but I was told that this number belongs to the club's fans. A friend of mine recommended that I take number 29. He told me that's a special number."

Capped 30 times by Belgium, Witsel joined Benfica from Standard Liege, where he made his professional debut at the age of 17.

Both players have been signed in time to play for Zenit in the Champions League, with the Russian club drawn in the same group as Malaga, AC Milan and Anderlecht.

Zenit are currently top of the Russian league with 16 points from seven matches.

Meanwhile Fenerbahce have completed the £8m signing of Raul Meireles from Chelsea on a four-year contract.

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