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Who is Stoke City's record transfer signing Giannelli Imbula from FC Porto?

Giannelli Imbula screengrab

Stoke's record signing Giannelli Imbula was the most expensive incoming Premier League transfer this January window, but who is the player previously labelled 'the new Patrick Vieira'?

Stoke signed Imbula on Deadline Day for club record fee of £18.3m from FC Porto, and the former France U21 international has signed a five-and-a-half year contract.

The midfielder has been compared to the legendary midfielder by sections of the French press, but Imbula has shrugged off such suggestions.

Here's all you need to know about the midfielder the Potters hope will plug the gap left by Steven N'Zonzi's summer departure... 


Giannelli Imbula (L) has played in the Champions League for Porto this season
Image: Imbula has played in the Champions League for Porto this season

Name: Giannelli Imbula

Age: 23

Also See:

Place of Birth: Vilvoorde, Belgium

Former clubs: Guingamp, Marseille, Porto

Position: Central midfielder


Imbula (C) thrived under Marcelo Bielsa at Marseille
Image: Imbula thrived under Marcelo Bielsa at Marseille

Imbula started his professional career at French club Guingamp in Ligue 2 after rising through the academy. Before that, his youth career was spent at Racing Club and Paris Saint-Germain.

At Guingamp, Imbula became the youngest player in Ligue 2 history to make his debut aged 17. He cemented his place as a first-team regular, and in the 2012/13 season he won promotion with the club to Ligue 1 as well as picking up the honour for Ligue 2 Player of the Season.

After such a successful term, Imbula was signed by Marseille for €7m (£5.3m), but struggled to make a significant impact in his first season despite making 33 appearances.

However, the following 2014/15 season he thrived under manager Marcelo Bielsa as part of a 3-3-3-1 formation where he developed a strong understanding with now-West Ham midfielder Dimitri Payet, Swansea forward Andre Ayew and Tigres striker Andre-Pierre Gignac.

Imbula then moved to Porto in the last summer transfer window for €20m (£15.2m). He made 10 league appearances, getting one assist.

Style of Play

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Stoke City manager Mark Hughes is delighted to have secured the signing of Imbula

Imbula is known as a physical holding midfielder, and a strong passer who likes to create from a deep midfield position. He has been compared to the likes of Vieira in the past as well as Claude Makelele. Stoke fans may see him as a fitting replacement for Stephen N'Zonzi, who left the club for Sevilla last summer.

Despite not being known as a player who will contribute greatly to the goals and assists count, in just his ten appearances for Porto this season, Imbula has created on average one chance a game. That stat is almost double the amount over Stoke's best central midfield creators with Charlie Adam and Ibrahim Afellay averaging 0.6 chances a game.

Considering Stoke have smashed their club record transfer fee to bring Imbula to the club, the chances are high he will take a starters role as one of the two central midfielders in Mark Hughes' conventional 4-2-3-1 formation.

What they say about him

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Niall Quinn & Paul Merson give their reaction to the news that City have signed Porto midfielder Imbula for a club-record fee of £18.3m

Stoke City chairman Peter Coates: "He played against us in Singapore and Mark liked him, and we've been tracking him ever since. We're always trying to improve the club and this is a big signing for us.

"We've had a good look at him and he's a good age, so if we've got the player we think we've got, he should be a good player for us and a good value player as well.

"We've missed N'Zonzi. He had a terrific season for us last year and we've missed that extra quality in midfield, so we're hoping Imbula is going to supply that."

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes: "Giannelli is a good young player. He has great power, good ability on the ball and a great range of passing and there's no doubt he will add to the quality that we already have at the club.

"He played against us in pre-season, and although I was already aware of him, seeing him at first hand resonated with me."

Sky Sports pundit Niall Quinn: "I don't think there's as much pressure on this signing as there would be had he signed for a Spurs who are going for a title for instance, or an Aston Villa who need to stay up. This is a nice signing for both right now and I think it will work out."

What he says

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Imbula says it's a dream to be able to play in the Premier League

"I'm very excited, I'm feeling very well and I'm happy to discover my new partners and to play as soon as possible," he said.

"I believe all players dream to play in the Premier League. I'm really pleased to have become a Stoke City player - it's a very exciting moment for me in my career. 

"Everyone talks about the Premier League. It's the biggest championship in the world and I really hope to be part of it very soon.

"It's really important the fact Mark Hughes has shown a desire to sign me. I will give my best for him and the club.

"The last months I've spent in Porto have been difficult; I really hope everything will be fine here. It was important that the coach wanted me. I watched many Stoke City games and I've really appreciated the way they play football.

"Stoke is a top 10 club, I've watched a lot of the games and I know most of the players." 

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