Stoke City have once more highlighted their ambition by breaking their transfer record to take Giannelli Imbula from FC Porto in an £18.3million deal.
Once regarded as little more than a long-ball side, Mark Hughes has now arguably rid Stoke of such a reputation with the likes of Bojan Krkic, Marko Arnautovic, Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri all contributing to their exciting brand of football. And now they have made another positive signing, with Imbula joining just six months after he left Marseille for Portugal.
“He’s a good young player, good power, good ability on the ball, a good range of passing, someone who will come in and add to the quality we’ve already got,” said Hughes. “Having seen him first hand that experience resonated with me when it was mooted that he may be available this window. From that point onwards we’ve tried to speak to the right people.”
Hughes had decided to make the 23-year-old midfielder a top target after witnessing him first hand in a pre-season friendly against Porto, even though this came just weeks after he joined them for around £17million. Imbula will now hope that his move to the Premier League will help him earn international recognition, as he awaits his first call-up to the full France squad.
Formerly of Guingamp, the 6ft 1in player has signed a five-and-a-half year contract at the Britannia Stadium, and is expected to make his debut against Everton at the weekend. There is little doubt that this is more evidence that Stoke’s ambitions now stretch well beyond Premier League survival, and Hughes has praised his board who continue to back his vision for the club.
“I think it’s important that when we go into the market we try and bring good quality in,” he added. “When you’re trying to become a different club in terms of aspiration and expectation then you have to get the players to drive that. I’ve always felt I’ve had the backing of the club to do something. It’s another example today. It’s a huge vote of confidence from the owners.”