Hit or miss: Reviewing Stoke City's modern record breaking transfers
Stoke City are now into their tenth consecutive season in the Premier League since achieving promotion from the Championship under the guidance of Tony Pulis in 2008.
Remarkably, the Potters are one of only eight clubs to have retained their place in the top-flight of English football during that period along with Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, exemplifying how they are now firmly established as one of the top fifteen clubs in the country.
Stoke’s meteoric rise can be traced back to 2002 when Gudjon Thordarson helped the club to climb out of League One (then the old Division Two) and during the intervening fifteen years the Potteries outfit have smashed their transfer record on a relatively consistent basis.
It is amazing now to consider that prior to 2002 the most expensive player on the club’s books cost £600,000 – nothing more that loose change compared to the £18.3 million that they invested in Giannelli Imbula in January 2016.
Here, The Boot Room examines some of the most recent players that Stoke have broken their transfer record on and concludes whether they were success of not.
Sambegou Bangoura – £900,000 (August 2005)
The Stoke Sentinel described Sambegou ‘Sammy’ Bangoura as ‘probably the most infuriating Stoke City player of all-time’ and it is not hard to see why.
The Guinean striker was purchased by Dutch manager Johan Boskamp in 2005 as the club’s Icelandic board made one final attempt to guide the Potters into the Premier League and he made an astonishing start to his career in North Staffordshire, scoring eight goals in his first 14 games.
However, the striker’s career suddenly began to drastically decline after a catalogue of peculiar off-field behaviour.
Bangoura went to play for Guinea in the African Cup of Nations but failed to report back after his country were knocked out of the tournament, much to the confusion of his manager, and when 23-year-old did eventually return he scored just one further goal that season before Boskamp was replaced by Tony Pulis in the summer of 2006.
However, the striker turned up 37 days late for pre-season and then went missing once again in mid-September before quickly being departing the club in January 2007.
Bangoura’s start to life at the Bet365 Stadium (then named the Britannia Stadium) genuinely excited supporters but his off field antics meant that they were soon glad to see him leave. Conclusion: MISS.
Ryan Shawcross – £1 million (January 2008)
When Ryan Shawcross arrived at the Bet365 Stadium (then named the Britannia Stadium) in the summer of 2007 as a teenager on loan from Manchester United, no one could have predicted the defining impact that he would go on to make at the club.
The young central defender quickly cemented himself as a key figure in Tony Pulis’ side and his signing was made permanent in January 2008 for the nominal fee of £1 million.
Shawcross grew into a colossus at the heart of Stoke’s defence and played a key role in helping the team to achieve promotion to the top-flight and soon emerged as one of the most consistent defenders in the Premier League, eventually leading to an England call up.
He garnered a reputation for being a solid, reliable central defender and was perceived by many to be one of the most underrated players in the country.
Shawcross has made over 350 appearances for the Potters and has been shouldering the responsibility of captaincy for almost a decade.
He is a genuine Stoke legend and remains just as important to the team’s current fortunes now as he has done in previous years – possibly one of the best pieces of business that the club have ever done. Conclusion: HIT.
Dave Kitson – £5.5 million (July 2008)
After Stoke City secured promotion to the Premier League in 2008, Tony Pulis was left with a squad that appeared ill-equipped to cope with the demands of life in the top flight of English football.
One betting agency paid out on the club to be relegated after just one game and it was clear that the Potters required significant investment in key areas of the team.
Dave Kitson was the marquee signing of the summer and arrived from Reading with a reputation as being a capable goal scorer after a prolific spell in Berkshire.
The £5.5 million fee that Stoke paid to secure the flame-haired striker’s services considerably dwarfed anything the the Potters had previously invested in a transfer. However, he failed miserably to adapt to life in the Potteries and never looked capable of fitting into the direct style of play that Pulis implemented.
He failed to score in any of his first 18 appearances and returned to Reading on loan for the second half of his debut campaign. The striker did return to the club in the summer and scored five goals in all competitions the following season, but never truly looked happy or settled.
Kitson publicly admitted in an interview that he had made ‘the wrong decision’ to join Stoke and regretted leaving Reading, which resulted in him swiftly being sold to Portsmouth in the summer of 2010.
Stoke’s first big-money sighing of their Premier League adventure turned out to be a costly error with each of his goals costing the club roughly £1.1 million. Conclusion: MISS.
Peter Crouch – £10 million (August 2011)
Former England international Peter Crouch arrived in the Potteries in the summer of 2011 after Stoke had agreed to pay £10 million to secure the striker’s services.
The lanky forward had previously played for Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Portsmouth and a host of other top-flight clubs and, despite his unusual appearance, had carved out a successful career.
Crouch has made just under 150 appearances for the Potters and scored 58 goals, making him the club’s most prolific goal scorer in the Premier League.
Despite various changes in managers, who have implemented drastically different styles of play, he has remained a key part of the current squad and, even at the age of 36, he continues to find the back of the net on a regular basis.
Crouch remains a hugely popular figure in the Potteries and he will be forever remember for producing one of the greatest goals in the club’s history in 2012 against Manchester City.
The striker controlled an aerial pass on his thigh, some thirty-five yards from goal close to the touchline, and unleashed a spectacular volley that flew into the top corner of the net.
It was an incredible moment of skill and a lasting reminder that Crouch’s game is built around more than just his height and aerial presence.
The striker ended the 2016/17 season as Stoke’s top goal scorer across all competitions and he has already plundered three goals so far this campaign, suggesting that the veteran still has plenty to offer in the coming years. Conclusion: HIT.
Giannelli Imbula – £18.3 million (February 2016)
There was considerable excitement around the Potteries when it was announced that Stoke would be smashing their transfer record to purchase French midfielder Giannelli Imbula from FC Porto in January transfer window of 2016.
Mark Hughes was building a side that appeared to have the potential to challenge for European football and the signing of the Imbula was seen as an direct attempt to push the club onto the mythical ‘next level’.
The midfielder made a bright start to his career at the Bet365 Stadium, scoring a spectacular volley against Bournemouth in one of his first appearances and produced a dominant performance at Stamford Bridge that demonstrated his pace, power and technical ability.
However, his form deteriorated as the season grew to a close with his lack of defensive awareness underpinning the frailties in his game.
The following season started as the previous campaign had ended and Imbula quickly found himself out of the starting eleven – by Christmas he was struggling to even make the match day squad.
The Frenchman departed Stoke in the summer of 2017 when he joined Toulouse on a season-long loan and drew stinging criticism from former team mate Shay Given who revealed that, “he’s come in from Porto and he’s literally tried nothing since he’s been” at the club.
It looks increasingly likely that Imbula’s career at Stoke is all but over – an expensive, record-signing flop. Conclusion: MISS.