Watt View - So near yet So-fiane for Boufal
Thursday, 10th Sep 2020 08:06 by Matt Watts
Our poll on Sofiane Boufal showed the fan base is still split about him, this week Matt gives the case for the defence and why we should keep him.
There has been much discussion this week concerning the future of Saints' Moroccan international Sofiane Boufal.
Reports suggest the club may be willing to cut its losses on the £16 million man for as little as £3.5 million.
Since his arrival at St Mary's in 2016 he has split opinion as a result of his inability to perform consistently while periodically delivering moments of exceptional quality.
The statistics don't present a picture of resounding success for an attacking midfielder, with 83 appearances and five goals over three seasons (and three goals in 35 games on loan at Celta Vigo last season).
However, he is undoubtedly a special football player.
His top moments can be recalled easily by most Saints fans, from his debut curling effort against Sunderland in the League Cup in 2016, to his 30-yard match-winning strike against Middlesbrough a couple of months later and his unforgettable solo run at home to West Brom.
The latter earned him the Premier League's Goal of the Season award in 2017-18 - and they are not easy to come by.
Then there are the sublime skills, such as at the Etihad against Manchester City in 2017 when he took three defenders out of the game, ghosted past Fabian Delph and slotted in Oriol Romeu for the equaliser.
As a then-record signing when he completed his move from Lille on a lengthy five-year deal, understandably he commanded a significant wage.
That is no doubt on the minds of those fans who would not argue against Boufal’s departure in the very near future - and I can understand that perspective.
A poll of fans on TUI this week showed 62.4% of participants would be happy for him to go now, with 26.7% voting for him to stay and 10.9% unsure.
So it is not cut and dried among the fan base and I have to admit that I, personally, am in favour of him remaining part of the squad.
While it may go against the majority view, Boufal gives me the belief he can create something extraordinary from nothing whether he is starter or substitute and playing well or poorly overall.
I have developed an affinity for his silky style of play and, despite his inconsistency, I get a buzz when he is on the ball or coming off the bench.
I like the suspense he provides, not knowing if he will nutmeg a defender and curl one in the top corner or take on six players and slot in a winner.
Players who give you that feeling are few and far between in my opinion.
While I appreciate the argument about his position as a higher earner, i would much prefer to see Wesley Hoedt, Mario Lemina and Guido Carillo make permanent moves away from St Mary’s and off the wage bill before we say so long to Sofiane.
I would be disappointed to lose arguably the most skilful player in the current squad and an international for £3.5 million.
While, as my headline suggests, it has been a case of so near yet so-fiane for Sofiane when it comes to realising his potential, I hold out much hope he can deliver some more special memories before he departs.
Even if he were to remain just an impact substitute, I really struggle to see what better quality we could have in reserve than someone of Boufal’s calibre.
I hope to see him remain at the club and look forward to at least a few more spectacular contributions.
Photo: Action Images
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