Gilbert Imbula Wanga (born 12 September 1992) is a professional footballer who plays as a defensive midfielder for Lecce on loan from English club Stoke City. Born in Belgium, Imbula played youth football for France before changing international allegiance to the DR Congo national team.
Imbula with Marseille in 2013
|Full name||Gilbert Imbula Wanga|
|Date of birth||12 September 1992|
|Place of birth||Vilvoorde, Belgium|
|Height||1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)|
|Playing position||Defensive midfielder|
(on loan from Stoke City)
|2017–2018||→ Toulouse (loan)||28||(1)|
|2018–2019||→ Rayo Vallecano (loan)||22||(1)|
|2019–||→ Lecce (loan)||0||(0)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 18:50, 29 March 2019 (UTC)|
Imbula began his career with French club Guingamp where he progressed from the youth teams to make his professional debut in October 2009. He helped Guingamp to promotion from the Championnat National in 2010–11. He established himself as a key member of the Guingamp team in Ligue 2 and one of the stand out players in the division which saw him win the Ligue 2 Player of the Year Award. This prompted Ligue 1 side Marseille to sign Imbula for a fee of €7 million.
He spent two seasons at the Stade Vélodrome before joining Portuguese side Porto in the summer of 2015 for €20 million. After seven months at Porto, Imbula joined English club Stoke City for a club record £18.3 million. Despite making a promising start at Stoke he had a poor 2016–17 season and was sent on loan to Ligue 1 side Toulouse in 2017–18, La Liga side Rayo Vallecano in 2018–19 and Serie A side Lecce in 2019–20.
Imbula was born in Vilvoorde, Belgium, to Congolese parents, who moved to Paris when he was young. Growing up he played youth team football with US Argenteuil, Racing Club, Paris Saint-Germain before moving to Guingamp when he was 15.
Imbula progressed through the youth team at the Stade de Roudourou and made his professional debut in Ligue 2 on 16 October 2009 in a game against Dijon, becoming the youngest player in Ligue 2 history at 17 years, 1 month and 4 days of age. He played 33 times in 2010–11, scoring twice and helping Guingamp gain an instant promotion back to Ligue 2. He made 30 appearances in 2011–12 as the side finished seventh which was followed by promotion to Ligue 1 in 2012–13, with Imbula making 36 appearances, scoring two goals and he was named Ligue 2 Player of the Year.
In July 2013, Imbula joined Marseille for a fee of €7 million, including bonuses. He played 37 times for Marseille in 2013–14 as the team and Imbula failed to make a significant impact, finishing outside of the European places in sixth spot. However, under the management of Marcelo Bielsa in 2014–15, Imbula formed an effective understanding with André Ayew, André-Pierre Gignac and Dimitri Payet where they finished in fourth place in the league table and were the second highest goalscorers with 76 goals.
On 1 July 2015, Imbula signed a five-year contract with Portuguese side Porto for a club record fee of €20 million. He struggled, however, to settle in Portugal and reports emerged that Porto would be willing to let him leave in the 2016 January transfer window.
On 1 February 2016, Imbula joined Premier League club Stoke City on a five-and-a-half year contract for a club record €24 million (£18.3 million). He made his Stoke debut on 6 February 2016 in a 3–0 defeat against Everton. Imbula scored his first goal for Stoke on 13 February in a 3–1 win over Bournemouth. He made a good start to his Stoke career and earned the praise of teammate Geoff Cameron. He scored in a 2–1 victory against West Ham United on the final day of the 2015–16 season, helping Stoke to a ninth-place finish.
Stoke and Imbula made a poor start to the 2016–17 campaign and he was dropped from the side by manager Mark Hughes. He returned to the side in December and January before again being left out of the squad by Hughes. Imbula made 14 appearances for Stoke in 2016–17 and it was reported that the club would be willing to cut their losses on Imbula in the summer transfer window.
Loan to ToulouseEdit
Loan to Rayo VallecanoEdit
On 30 August 2018, Imbula moved to La Liga side Rayo Vallecano on a one-year loan deal. Imbula played 24 times for Rayo in 2018–19 as the team finished bottom of the table, and scored once with a long-range strike that was the only goal in a win at SD Huesca on his debut 14 September.
Loan to LecceEdit
Born to Congolese parents, Imbula was born in Belgium but raised in France, making him eligible for any of these three countries. In 2013, he received a call up from France under-21 team to compete in the Toulon Tournament. In October 2015, however, Imbula publicly expressed his desire to play for the Belgium national team, for which reason he has required authorization to FIFA to do so. Imbula was called up to the DR Congo national team squad to face Tanzania on 14 March 2018, but rejected the call-up. One year later, Imbula was named in the provisional DR Congo squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. However, he was not included in the final 23-man squad after his international clearance was not processed in time.
Style of playEdit
Imbula plays as a defensive midfielder and has been described by Mark Hughes as being able to play in centre midfield: "He's a defensive midfielder and he's got a lot of attributes in terms of understanding that role, but he can play in a three as well. I like that flexibility in players because it gives me more options. He's a good young player with good power, good ability on the ball, and a good range of passing."
- As of match played 17 March 2019
|Marseille B||2013–14||CFA 2||2||0||—||—||—||2||0|
|Stoke City||2015–16||Premier League||14||2||0||0||0||0||—||14||2|
|Stoke City U23||2016–17||—||—||—||—||1[b]||0||1||0|
|Toulouse (loan)||2017–18||Ligue 1||28||1||0||0||2||0||2[c]||0||34||1|
|Rayo Vallecano (loan)||2018–19||La Liga||22||1||2||0||—||—||24||1|
|Lecce (loan)||2019–20||Serie A||0||0||0||0||—||—||0||0|
- "List of players under written contract registered between 01/02/2016 and 29/02/2016" (PDF). The Football Association. p. 3. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
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- "Can Mark Hughes help Giannelli Imbula realise his potential at Stoke City?". ESPNFC. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
- Gianelli Imbula on FFF.fr (in French)
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- "Imbula joins Marseille" (PDF).
- "Futebol Clube do Porto – Futebol, SAD" (PDF). FC Porto. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
- "Europas Top-Ligen 2018/2019". Kicker. p. 173.
- "Porto willing to sell Imbula – agent". 442. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
- F.C. Porto (1 February 2016). "Comunicado" [Communication] (PDF) (Press release) (in Portuguese). CMVM. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
- "Giannelli Is A Potter". Stoke City. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
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- "Imbula Handed Potters Debut". Stoke City. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
- "Bournemouth 1–3 Stoke". BBC Sport. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- "Geoff Cameron tries to bite his tongue over Giannelli Imbula". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 20 May 2016.[permanent dead link]
- "Stoke 2–1 West Ham". BBC Sport. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
- "Mark Hughes gives Stoke City outcast Giannelli Imbula encouragement over future". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
- "We are not giving up on Giannelli Imbula says Stoke City boss". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
- "What next for Giannelli Imbula, Stoke's £18.3m enigma?". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
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- "Giannelli Imbula: Stoke midfielder signs loan deal with French club Toulouse". BBC Sport. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- Giannelli Imbula at Soccerway
- "Imbula Joins Rayo Vallecano". Stoke City F.C. 30 August 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
- "Imbula's debut screamer seals Rayo Vallecano victory at Huesca". Belfast Telegraph. 14 September 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
- "Stoke City transfer news: £18.3 midfielder heads out for third season on loan". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
- "45 joueurs présélectionnés pour le match RDC-Guinée Equatoriale de la CAN-Afrique du Sud 2013". ACPCongo.com. 17 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
- "Young star chooses to play for Belgium over France". Dream Team FC. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
- "Porto's Giannelli Imbula yet to decide between Belgium and France". ESPN FC. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
- "Giannelli Imbula 'has no desire' to honour surprise international call-up". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
- "CAN TOTAL EGYPTE 2019 : D'ABORD UNE PRÉ-LISTE DE 32 D'IBENGE…". Rdcongoleopardsfoot.com. 21 May 2019.
- Barrie, Mohamed Fajah (24 May 2019). "Africa Cup of Nations: Giannelli Imbula awaits clearnce to play for DR Congo". BBC Sport. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- Barrie, Mohamed Fajah (12 June 2019). "Africa Cup of Nations: Stoke's Imbula 'sad and angry' at DR Congo omission". BBC Sport. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- "Don't compare record signing with Steven Nzonzi, says Mark Hughes". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
- "Stoke City's summer of love: Giannelli Imbula becomes third Potter to get wed in close-season". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
- "Premier League footballer caught doing 72mph through 50mph zone in Stockport". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
- "Games played by Giannelli Imbula in 2013/2014". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
- "Games played by Giannelli Imbula in 2014/2015". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
- "Games played by Giannelli Imbula in 2015/2016". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
- "Le Palmarès complet". UNFP (in French). 19 May 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2018.