Football: Stoke splash out club record fee for Porto's Imbula

Chelsea's Ramires in action with Giannelli Imbula (left) during a Uefa Champions League Group Stage football match. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Stoke have splashed out a club record £18.3 million (S$37.6 million) to sign Porto midfielder Giannelli Imbula, the Premier League club announced on Monday.

Imbula agreed a five-and-a-half year contract with Mark Hughes' side and the deal was sealed less than half an hour before the official close of the transfer window.

The signing surpasses Stoke's previous record of $24.6 million, which they paid to lure Xherdan Shaqiri from Inter Milan last year.

"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," Hughes told Stoke's website.

"He played against us in pre-season and although I was already aware of him, seeing him at first hand resonated with me." Born to Congolese parents in Belgium, Imbula launched his career with French side Guingamp in 2009 and four years later joined Marseille, where he got his first taste of Champions League action.

The 23-year-old has represented France at Under-21 and Under-20 levels, but has since expressed his desire to play for Belgium although he is yet to make his senior international debut.

City Chief Executive Tony Scholes added: "Giannelli is a player we have been trailing for some time and we are delighted to have concluded a deal to sign him.

"At one stage it looked unlikely that we would be able to get the deal over the line but things accelerated quickly earlier today and Giannelli is really excited about the prospect of playing in the Premier League with us."

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