IN PROFILE: Sofiane Boufal

By SFC Media time Mon 29 Aug Club

We profile the career of Southampton's club-record signing, Sofiane Boufal.

Sofiane Boufal was born to Moroccan parents in Paris, in September 1993.

It was in the city of Angers, to the southwest of the French capital, where he would grow up and where his football career would begin.

A technically-gifted player, Boufal, who is comfortable playing out wide, or as a number ten, honed his ability on the ball by playing futsal at an early age – something he credits for helping him with his dribbling ability in tight spaces.

During the school holidays, he would head outside to work on his footwork alone, if no one was around to play with.

His development would then continue in the Angers youth system. Despite his talent, Boufal’s height – he did not have a growth spurt until late – nearly counted against him.

Fortunately, despite his small stature, he had enough backing from his coaches for the club to retain him, and they were rewarded for their faith when Boufal grew to his current height of 5ft 8in.

His debut for the Angers first-team arrived in August 2012, when he appeared as a substitute in a 1-0 home defeat to Istres, in Ligue 2.

A three-year professional contract would follow in the summer of 2013, before he became a regular in the Angers side.

Boufal would make 32 appearances, across all competitions, for the team in 2013/14.

Some exceptional form for Angers at the start of the 2014/15 campaign saw him earn a move to Ligue 1 side Lille, one of Saints manager Claude Puel’s former clubs, in January 2015.

He was an immediate hit there, scoring three times in 16 appearances, before really bursting to prominence in 2015/16.

Boufal netted 12 goals in 35 appearances, marking himself out as one of the most exciting young attacking midfielders around, and drawing the interest of a host of top clubs around Europe.

The competition for his services did not just extend to club level, however.

Boufal, who holds the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho as idols, was also coveted by both the French and Moroccan international sides, before he eventually opted earlier this year to represent the latter, making his debut in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying win over Cape Verde, in March.

Comparisons with Lille legend Eden Hazard were made by the team’s captain, Rio Mavuba, while the 22-year-old was last season named the best African player in the French top-flight.

Boufal will now hope to continue developing and fulfilling his promise in the Premier League with Southampton.

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