For Giannelli Imbula, Sunday’s game against Marseille was a big deal, considering he was playing for Toulouse facing the team that put him on the European football map, leading to moves to Porto and Stoke City.
The Belgium-born footballer is still contracted to the Potters until 2021, but a lack of opportunity led to his loan to the Ligue 1 side, where he has had a strange season.
Arriving with a lot of promise, the 25-year-old failed to deliver under Pascal Dupraz, even pushed to one side after storming off following a substation, but since Mickaël Debève took over, things have improved.
Ahead of the game on Sunday, he spoke to La Depeche about the changes the new manager has brought in, and took some time to show his gratitude for the club giving him a chance.
He said: “I thank the club for trusting me. I arrived lacking everything, I would say, and I’ve always played. It touched me. Really”.
By that, we’re assuming he’s referring to a lack of game time, lack of fitness and, probably most importantly, a lack of confidence.
During his year and a half (so far) as a Stoke player, Imbula only made 28 appearances in all competitions, scoring two goals.
Mark Hughes wasn’t a fan, it seems, but, if they stay up, that could change under Paul Lambert.
Next season will be a fresh start.