PROFILE | Sofiane Boufal: Angers may soon lose their talisman after Morocco World Cup form

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Before breaking (back) into the limelight as a part of Morocco’s World Cup adventure, Sofiane Boufal had been quietly, but confidently, establishing himself as a pivotal figure within Angers’ attack.

Since moving back across the Channel from Southampton, Boufal has been the unchallenged technical leader of the squad, albeit having suffered from a few injury problems when he first arrived. He is now the standout player in an inconsistent side that has turned in a diabolical calendar year as 2022 saw the purple patch at the start of Gérald Baticle’s reign wash away as quickly as it arrived.

Last season, Boufal was the western side’s best performer in a campaign that went from the peaks of a 3-0 win over Lyon to the nadirs of a seven-game losing streak at the turn of the year. Statistically, he registered the best season of his career since his final campaign at Lille six years ago. His upturn in end product hasn’t come to the detriment of his flair either, as he remains one of Ligue 1’s prime entertainers on the pitch.

Now no longer rigidly sticking to the flank, a hitherto undiscovered tactical nous had come to the fore in Boufal’s game under the management of Baticle. This year, the 29-year-old’s three goals and three assists have seen him involved in nearly half of the team’s goals – even his silky feet are no match for Angers’ downward slide.

On the world stage, his penchant for taking his man on to break lines and lead counterattacks along with his other technically adept midfield partners has stood out. The approach has garnered praise for Walid Regragui’s side, who have been a breath of fresh air in the increasingly uniform tactical landscape that is international football.

With that in mind, Le SCO’s president Saïd Chabane is under no illusions: the chances of Boufal staying, along with his international teammate and the World Cup’s breakout star Azzedine Ounahi, are close to zero. Not least with the club currently languishing at the foot of the Ligue 1 table.

Raphaël Jucobin | GFFN

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