Sofiane Boufal linked with return to France

Southampton and Morroco winger Sofiane Boufal, who signed from Lille in 2016, has been linked in French media with a return to Ligue 1

Sofiane Boufal linked with return to France
Boufal has been largely underwhelming during his time with the Saints. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

According to French outlet Le ParisienOGC Nice and Stade Rennais are chasing the signature of Sofiane Boufal, who has scored just three goals in two seasons and 50 appearances on the South Coast. 

This all comes after a very public falling out with newly-appointed manager Mark Hughes in April, with the former club-record signing 'banished' to the Under 23's side after reportedly refusing to warm up during Southampton's 3-2 home defeat to Chelsea

After the incident, Hughes said: "He probably needs to rebuild a bit of trust with us and his team-mates. That’s what we’re working on. He won’t be involved this weekend.

"We’ll have to wait and see [whether he can return this season].”

Boufal didn't make another appearance in red and white, as the Saints scrapped to Premier League survival with wins against AFC Bournemouth and Swansea City.

The Paris-born attacker will have to take drastic action if he wants to return to the Morrocan national team after being excluded from the World Cup 23-man squad. 

"Of course, L'OM interests me" - Boufal

Boufal conducted an interview with French television channel SFR Sport upon the conclusion of the Premier League season, stating his interest in a return to France. 

“It's true that today a return to France interests me a great deal. A good club in France that plays in Europe, of course, I would be very very interested in returning.

"It's a league I know, a language I know..."

In the same interview, the five-time capped Moroccan forward also hinted at a move to Europa League finalists Olympique Marseille.

“L'Olympique de Marseille remain a very big club... of course, L'OM interests me, if they are interested, why not sign for them?”

Underwhelming Boufal will need replacing

Boufal earned plenty of plaudits when he arrived in August 2016 - and things looked positive early on when he scored a beautiful goal on his first start against Sunderland in the League Cup, winning the 2016/17 Goal of the Season award and helping us to the final of the competition.

However, he failed to nail down a starting spot in Claude Puel and Mauricio Pellegrino's squads in consecutive seasons and wasn't helped by his constant battle with injury - something any potential suitors will have to remember when shelling out for the winger. 

A high point for Boufal was the ridiculous solo goal he scored against West Brom at St. Mary's in October, as he danced past The Baggies defence and slotted home - winning the Premier League's Goal of the Season award, and leaving Saints fans wondering if he could be 'the man' to help kick-start their season.  

If Boufal departs, Southampton will need to replace the enigmatic man who brought a different dimension to the team on every introduction - but someone with a bit more end product will be needed, as goals were a huge struggle last term.