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By The Atlas Lions, Oct 10 2019 07:59PM

Moroccan determined to take his second chance in the Premier League with Southampton.

The return of Sofiane Boufal has been a welcome sight for Southampton supporters. Back from loan, the Moroccan admits he’s got things wrong in his Saints past, but is determined to make up for lost time with a new mindset to help him conquer the Premier League…

Having wiped the slate clean after a 12-month hiatus in Spain with Celta Vigo, he’s back at Southampton with a point to prove. He looks fitter, hungrier, more determined.

This interview is no different. Rather than see it as a chore, the maverick Moroccan takes the opportunity to open up, admit his mistakes and explain why he’s so grateful for a second crack at the Premier League.

There’s never been any doubting his talent. Combining that with this freshly-lit fire in his belly makes Boufal one to keep an eye on.

Recently turning 26, the roaming midfielder with the dizzying footwork knows it’s about the here and now. It’s time to unlock the potential.

“When I went away and when I came back… I’m not the same person,” he says, with a steely glare.

“I think I’m a lot more mature and I know exactly what I want. That’s why I work hard, because I don’t want to have regrets.

“I want to put all that I can on my side to achieve my ambitions.”

When pressed on where part one of his Saints career took a negative turn, Boufal doesn’t shirk the question. But his focus soon turns to the sequel – one he hopes will have a happier ending.

“All people make mistakes – the most important thing is not the mistake, but how you react to the mistake,” he continues.

“I think I’ve reacted well. I was looking at what was good and what was not good, and I progressed like that.

“All people make mistakes, but now I am more mature, more calm and ready to smash the Premier League.”

He grins after that last line. It’s a mixture of the old and the new Boufal. For all the intent to do well and eagerness to impress, the cheeky side to him that loves nothing more than to flummox defenders remains alive and well.

He reveals a new outlook: never take anything for granted, never get carried away, never look too far ahead.

"I want to go step by step,” he explains. “For now, I am more focused about the next game.

“I am not focused about the next ten games, or how many goals I need to score, or how many assists I need to make.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on me – I just want to play a good game.

“You always need to be focused on the next game and to keep playing well. At the end, I hope that will be good enough.”

That’s the end, but what about the beginning of the sequel? Boufal reveals there was summer interest that could have ended his Saints career prematurely, but giving up on his Premier League dream was never on the agenda.

“Since the first day I came back here, I knew I would stay,” he says. “I spoke with the club and I had good offers in the summer – maybe two or three times what I earn here in salary – but I didn’t want to go.

“They were very good offers in Europe, but I was focused on staying here. I wanted to stay in Southampton, work hard and be part of the team.

“I am a very ambitious player and I want to show the people who I am. I’m very excited about this season with Southampton.

“I love this club, I like the fans and since I left I always watched the games to see how Southampton is doing.

“The club is still the same. The club is a family club – all the people are very friendly and there is a very good atmosphere here.”

Boufal has only good things to say about his time in La Liga. It’s not that he was desperate to get away from Spain, just that he knew he had unfinished business in the red and white stripes.

“The Premier League is the Premier League – maybe the best league in the world. I love the atmosphere in the stadiums. It’s very good and I’m very happy,” he added.

“I wouldn’t say I missed it, because if I say that I think it would be disrespectful to my last club (Celta Vigo).

“I enjoyed my time there and it was a very good experience. It was a new country, a new philosophy and a new language. I loved my time there.”

What’s clear is the influence of Ralph Hasenhüttl, whose high-intensity approach and pressing from the front may have seemed at odds with Boufal’s natural game.

But this is the new, enlightened Boufal, remember, and this one is desperate to learn and embrace the demands placed on him by the boss.

“The only thing that’s changed between when I left and when I came back is the manager – that’s it,” he says.

“Since he (Hasenhüttl) came, I was watching all the games and I knew a bit about the philosophy.

“The first day I came back here, I spoke with the manager and he showed me some videos and showed me how he thinks about football.

“He wants me to play well and work hard for the team – to press, to counter-press and to play in his philosophy.

“That’s why I work hard – very hard – every day, to be ready physically to do all that he asks from me.

“It is the first time for me playing in this way, but I am very happy. For me, he is a very good manager, and the ideas he has are very good ideas.

“That’s why I do everything to be part of his philosophy and his team.”

New manager, new philosophy, new Boufal. But one thing that remains unchanged for the man with the dancing feet is the esteem in which he is held by the Saints fans.

Their support from afar on social media, he reveals, helped persuade him to knuckle down and try again when many assumed his stay on the south coast would be coming to an end.

Now back in the starting XI, the palpable sense of anticipation when he faces up a defender and the heightened roar with every sidestep are very much intact.

“Of course I feel it,” he smiles. “I think it’s my style of play, because when I have the ball, no one will know what I will do.

“But also I want to have the feeling that when I score all the people are happy. I hope to have that feeling soon.

“For a football player, when you have the fans with you and the fans like you, it’s very important.

“I have always had a good relationship with the fans. I was very happy when I saw some messages on Twitter from people wanting me to come back to the club. That also helped me to stay here.”

By The Atlas Lions, Oct 4 2019 09:07AM

SOFIANE Boufal made it clear that leaving Saints never crossed his mind.

The Moroccan international spent last season on loan at Celta Vigo before returning to St Mary’s for pre-season in the summer.

So far, it’s proven to be a triumphant return, with Boufal slotting seamlessly into Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first team.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Boufal admitted his delight at being back on the south coast, saying: “[Of course] I am very happy to be here.

“My mindset was to always stay here.

“I spoke with the club during the summer and told them that I didn’t want to move and that I wanted to stay here.

“I am very motivated and happy to come back.

“I want to progress at this club and stay here. I want to leave the club through a big door and not a small door.”

Saints fans were always hopeful that Hasenhuttl would be able to transform Boufal’s game in a similar way to how he helped Nathan Redmond develop.

However, there was always a question mark whether the 26-year-old would buy into the manager’s way of playing.

The messages on Twitter about what Hasenhuttl could do to a player of Boufal’s ability didn’t go unnoticed by the playmaker.

“I always have a good relationship with the fans and I am very happy about that,” explained the former Lille man.

“I saw a lot of messages about me and the new manager and that also made me want to stay because the fans trusted me.”

Speaking about the first time he met Hasenhuttl, Boufal added: “It was a meeting where it was just about his philosophy and what it’s like to play in his team and everything else.

“I wasn’t nervous [to meet Hasenhuttl] because I was very, very focused on staying here – even if some other club wanted me.

“I didn’t want to move and since the first day, I have been very focused.

“We always need to prove but, yes, I need to prove the most because I left the club not in a good way, so of course I wanted to show people I am here, and I will help you.”

In the many clips Saints put up from training, they tend to focus on something spectacular Boufal has managed to do.

Whether that’s getting a ball stuck in the top corner or embarrassing defender Maya Yoshida during a rondo, it’s clear he brings a smile to the dressing room.

“I always had a good relationship with my teammates, even when I left I kept in contact with some players,” explained the Moroccan.

“I was watching all the games. It was hard for me to leave this club because I really wanted to stay, but it was a moment for me to go and then come back stronger.”

By The Atlas Lions, May 23 2019 07:54PM

By Morocco World News

Rabat – Moroccan footballer Soufiane Boufal, who plays with Spanish club Celta Vigo, has been crowned best dribbler in Spain’s La Liga football league for the 2018/2019 season, outperforming Lionel Messi.

With 144 successful dribbles, Celta de Vigo’s Boufal is ahead of Messi (133) and Eibar’s Fabian Orellana (81).

Although Boufal made the most dribbles this year, he only scored three goals and made three assists.

The 25-year-old attacking midfielder, who was born in Paris, joined the Celta de Vigo football club in western Spain, on a loan from English club Southampton.

According to a report from Spanish media outlet Faro de Vigo, Celta Vigo is willing to permanently sign Boufal and will have to negotiate a fee of €15 million, as the club agreed with Southampton last summer.

Celta de Vigo is currently in 17th place out of 20 teams in La Liga’s standings.

Boufal made his debut with the Moroccan national team in March 2016 in a 1-0 Africa Cup of Nations qualification victory over Cape Verde. He also made two appearances with the Moroccan team in 2017 in friendly matches against Tunisia and Burkina Faso.

By The Atlas Lions, May 22 2019 01:50AM

By Sport Witness Team - 21st May 2019

Sofiane Boufal has said his goodbyes to Celta Vigo after an interesting time with the club.

The Southampton owned player topped the dribbling statistics for much of the season, but end product didn’t often live up to what had happened before it.

He’s certainly been entertaining to watch for Celta fans, if at times frustrating, and now there’s a confusion of whether a stay is remotely possible.

Faro de Vigo report Boufal is still considered a ‘very interesting’ player for Celta in this transfer market, but he’s only a second option. Even then, the Spanish club wouldn’t be looking to pay the €15m option they agreed with Southampton last summer.

El Desmarque sound even more negative, explaining the fee and the player’s wages are ‘far from the possibilities’ of Celta’s finances right now.

They believe Ralph Hasenhüttl will take a serious look at the player in Southampton’s preseason training, and therefore a stay at the Saints isn’t ruled out.

By The Atlas Lions, Apr 20 2019 03:56PM

( The 25-year-old scored his third league goal of the season to help the Sky Blues return to winning ways at Municipal de Balaidos

Sofiane Boufal impressed as Celta Vigo defeated Girona 2-1 in Saturday's Spanish La Liga game between the two sides.

After losing to Atletico Madrid last Saturday, the Sky Blues bounced back to winning ways with the Morocco international playing a key role in the match.

Boufal set up Iago Aspas for the opening goal in the 34th minute before Portu levelled for Eusebio Sacristan’s men 14 minutes later.

The 25-year-old was cautioned in the 70th minute before he was substituted for Andrew Hjulsager later in the game.

The victory saw Celta Vigo move to the 14th spot on the table after gathering 35 points from 33 games.

Boufal has now scored three goals in 31 league appearances this season and will hope to continue the form in their next game against Espanyol on Wednesday.

The midfielder, who has six caps for Morocco, will look forward to playing a part in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

The Atlas Lions are in Group D along with Ivory Coast, Namibia and South Africa.

By The Atlas Lions, Apr 16 2019 06:17PM

By Morocco World News -

Rabat – French-Moroccan footballer Soufiane Boufal has surpassed Lionel Messi as the player with the most successful dribbles in Spain’s La Liga football league for the 2018/2019 season.

With 131 successful dribblings, Celta de Vigo’s Boufal is ahead of Messi (117) and Eibar’s Fabian Orellana (75).

Although Boufal made the most dribbles this year, he only scored two goals, one against Girona and one against Sevilla, according to the Spanish sports daily, Marca.

The 25-year-old attacking midfielder, who was born in Paris, joined the Celta de Vigo football club in western Spain on a loan for the from Southampton in the UK.

In order for Celta de Vigo to keep Boufal, they will have to negotiate a fee of €15 million as the club agreed with Southampton last summer.

Celta de Vigo is currently in 17th place out of 20 teams in La Liga’s standings.

The club is having a difficult season, struggling to stay in La Liga with only six matches left in the season.

Boufal made his debut with the Moroccan national team in March 2016 in a 1-0 Africa Cup of Nations qualification victory over Cape Verde. He also made two appearances with the Moroccan team in 2017 in friendly matches against Tunisia and Burkina Faso.

By The Atlas Lions, Jan 23 2019 09:49PM

(Reuters) - On-loan Southampton duo Guido Carrillo and Sofiane Boufal may still have a future at the club and will be given a chance to prove their worth when they return to St Mary’s at the end of the season, chairman Ralph Krueger has said.

Argentine striker Carrillo joined La Liga outfit Leganes on a season-long loan deal at the start of the season, while Moroccan midfielder Boufal was loaned to Celta Vigo.

Both players fell out of favour under former Southampton manager Mark Hughes, who has since been sacked and replaced by Austrian Ralph Hasenhuettl.

“Ralph’s going to take a look at them,” Krueger told fans recently. “There’s no 100 percent guarantee that they would be sold in the summer or not. They will come back, and we will re-evaluate them.

“Both players deserve that opportunity and when we feel the time is right to sell, we will sell.”

Carrillo has scored five goals for Leganes this season, while Boufal has struck two for Celta, who are a point and a place above the relegation zone in Spain.

Hasenhuettl has guided Southampton away from relegation trouble since taking over in December and the club are currently 15th in the table, with four wins and a draw in eight league matches under the Austrian.

By The Atlas Lions, Nov 16 2018 09:38PM

( Morocco have moved to the verge of qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after they defeated Cameroon 2-0 at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca on Friday night.

The result saw the Atlas Lions surge to the top of Group B on 10 points and avenge a 1-0 loss to the West African giants from the teams’ first meeting in Yaounde in June last year.

Hakim Ziyech was the match winner for Morocco, who will secure qualification if Malawi fail to defeat Comoros in Moroni on Saturday afternoon.

The Indomitable Lions, meanwhile, are guaranteed their berth at the finals due to the status as the host nation, but will be worried at another disappointing result under coach Clarence Seedorf.

Cameroon created the first opening to put Eric Choupo-Moting in shooting space in the seventh minute, but the French-based player was unable to find the target as Karim El Ahmadi closed him down quickly.

Morocco gradually gained control of the game and much of their play was directed through Hakim Ziyech. The Ajax attacking midfielder went close with a couple of efforts from long range, but wasn’t quite able to get the better of his club teammate, Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana.

At the other end of the field, the Atlas Lions needed gloves-man Yassibe Bounou to be sharp in keeping out an effort from Karl Toko Ekambi in the 28th minute. The West Africans saw less of the ball but were dangerous on the counter attack.

The best chance of the first half went the way of Ziyech in the 45th minute, but after being played in on goal by Younes Belhanda he only managed to shoot straight at Onana, leaving the game locked at 0-0 heading into the interval.

Morocco made a change at the start of the second half, sending on Sofiane Boufal for the injured Belhanda. The move paid dividends just seven minutes after the restart as the Celta Vigo player earned a penalty for a push in the back.

Ziyech duly dispatched the spot kick to give Herve Renard’s team a deserved lead in the 54th minute, and the 25-year-old was on hand again 12 minutes later as he sent a dipping, left-footed shot beyond Onana to double the hosts’ advantage.

The Indomitable Lions looked for a way back into the game and upped the pressure in attack, but they were controversially reduced to 10 men in the 79th minute when Toko Ekambi received a second yellow card.

His second caution was for diving, though it appeared as if there was contact with Moroccan defender Manuel da Costa. Regardless, it took the sting out of Cameroon’s intent and allowed the hosts to see out a relatively comfortable victory.

Morocco (0) 2 (Ziyech 54’ pen 66’)

Cameroon 0

Morocc: Bounou, Hakimi, Benatia, da Costa, Mazraoui, El Ahmadi, Amrabat, Ziyech (Ait Bennasser 90’), Belhanda (Boufal 46’), Fajr, Boutaib (En-Nesyri 65’)

Cameroon: Onana, Fai, Onguene, Bong, Kunde (Djoum 82’), Bassogog (Bahoken 70’), Zambo Anguissa, Ngadeu-Ngadjui, Madjeck (N’Jie 68’), Choupo-Moting, Toko Ekambi

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