Giannelli Imbula has received clearance from the Russian Football Union to sign for PFC Sochi.
The midfielder broke Stoke City ‘s transfer record just four years ago when he signed a five-and-a-half-year contract as he joined from Porto for £18.3m.
But early in his first full season he slid dramatically out of Mark Hughes’s first team plans and he did not play for the club after March 2017.
Loan spells in relegation scraps with Toulouse and Rayo Vallecano followed and he had barely been used by Lecce this season before they reached an agreement to prematurely send him home. Stoke then agreed to his exit by mutual consent, 16 months before the end of his contract.
He was wanted by PFC Sochi, bottom of the Russian Premier League, but has had to wait for the green light after international clearance was not granted before the transfer deadline passed in Moscow.
The RFU has now approved his move outside of the registration period and he is free to join up with his new teammates ahead of Sunday’s home match against mid-table FC Ural.
Imbula’s new club was only founded in 2018 following the relocation of Dynamo St Petersburg. They play in the 41,000-capacity Fisht Stadium, which was used in the 2018 World Cup – but only had a crowd of 5,720 for their 2-1 loss to Arsenal Tula on Sunday.
Sochi are five points adrift of the two relegation play-off spots – and safety, with only goal difference separating the teams from 12th to 14th; Akhmat Grozny, Rubin Kazan and Orenburg.