UEFA.com looks at what Giannelli Imbula will bring to FC Porto after the midfielder joined the Dragons from Olympique de Marseille for a Portuguese record fee of €20m.
Article top media content
A 22-year-old who has commanded a fee of €20m, Giannelli Imbula has joined FC Porto from Olympique de Marseille, but what is special about the man the Dragons will hope dominates midfield in the UEFA Champions League this season?
With Imbula having a €50m release clause in his five-year contract, Porto certainly think the Frenchman is set for big things. That fact is hammered home further by the Portuguese record fee they have spent, the deal topping the €19m paid by the club to Tokyo Verdy in 2008 to bring Hulk to the Estádio do Dragão.
Imbula was born to Congolese parents in Belgium, but it is in France where he has made his name and for whom he has appeared at Under-20 and U21 levels. After Imbula circulated through the youth systems of a number of clubs, it was EA Guingamp who were brave enough to give him a Ligue 2 debut at the age of 17 in 2009 – how the Brittany outfit were rewarded. Despite his tender years, Imbula established himself as a key performer, learning his trade in the second tier over the next three seasons, eventually helping the club to promotion in 2012/13.
Performances inevitably attracted France's big fish and Marseille came calling in the summer of 2013, Imbula slotting straight into the side and making 29 league appearances in his first campaign on the south coast. He missed just one game last term as OM, after a blistering start, finished fourth.
Possessing all the attributes required of a man proficient in his defensive duties – timing, strength, speed – he can burst from deep, start counterattacks and drive at the heart of the opposition's defence. With far neater feet than many would expect of a man who breaks up play for a living, Imbula is also adept at ball retention and would be equally comfortable fitting into a side hoping to demonstrate a possession-based style.
"I'm very happy to have signed for Porto," he said. "It is a club that has won many European trophies. They have a great team and I hope to make a contribution."
The signing is a major statement of intent from Porto, who did not win any silverware in 2014/15. With midfield places to fill after the loans of Óliver Torres (Club Atlético de Madrid) and Casemiro (Real Madrid CF) ended, they have attracted a replacement who can help them dominate at home and challenge in European competition once more.