LONDON • Stoke City shattered their transfer record for a second time this season to sign Giannelli Imbula for a fee of £18.3 million (S$37.6 million) just 10 minutes before the window closed on Monday.
The arrival of the midfielder from Porto was by far the biggest deal of the day - and transfer window - with the top five Premier League clubs not spending.
Manager Mark Hughes described Imbula as a "big signing for us".
The 23-year-old midfielder was a record signing when Porto bought him for €20 million (S$31.2 million) from Marseille last year, but Stoke have been working on the deal for a month after Hughes was impressed with the player during his side's pre-season friendly against Porto last summer.
Imbula has made seven appearances for the France Under-21s but has yet to earn a full cap for Les Bleus and could switch his national allegiance to Belgium, where he was born.
He becomes Stoke's record signing, after the arrival of Xherdan Shaqiri in August last year for £12 million, and has signed a 51/2-year deal.
Hughes said: "He is a Patrick Vieira type - a strong and powerful midfielder, a real driving force.
"He's got good ability on the ball, a good range of passing, someone who will come in and add to the quality we've already got. 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. It's not something we've jumped into at the last minute. There's a lot of work that has been done in the last month or so."
Stoke showed again that they could persuade players with big reputations to join the club after the arrival of Bojan Krkic and Shaqiri in the past two seasons.
Asked about how the club have backed him in the market, Hughes said: "I think it's important that when we go into the market we try and bring good quality in. When you're trying to move and become a different club in terms of aspiration and expectation then you have to get the players to drive that. I've tried to bring the right quality in.
"I've always felt I've had the backing of the club to do something. It's another example (Imbula). It's a huge vote of confidence from the owners."
Imbula, who broke through at Guingamp before a move to Marseille in 2013, flew to England on Monday after negotiations had advanced in the morning. Stoke have agreed to Porto having a 15 per cent sell-on clause included in the deal.
Marco van Ginkel, the Dutch midfielder who was on a season-long loan at Stoke from Chelsea, moved to PSV Eindhoven as news of Imbula's deal was confirmed.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON