Southampton have been fairly quiet this window, despite the departures of three key players. However that is set to change during the last week of the window as they try and add more quality to their squad. The Mirror are reporting that they are closing in on the signing of Lille midfielder Sofiane Boufal, which could turn out to be one of the best of the window. The increased finances of the Premier League allows all 20 clubs to compete for players that they couldn’t before and Southampton’s move for Boufal is an example of that.
They are going to break their transfer record if the deal goes through, with the rumoured fee in the region of £20 million. The Lille midfielder has been on the radar of huge clubs including Tottenham, Chelsea and Juventus, but it is Southampton who have jumped to the front of the queue. It would be an exciting signing for the club, with Boufal becoming the best attacking midfielder at Lille since Eden Hazard. Although that is a huge claim, Boufal was sensational last season and caught the attention of the footballing world.
He is a dynamic attacking midfielder, who will be great to watch if he does move to the Premier League. Boufal has great close ball control and his quick feet allow him to dribble through defences. His ability to beat players make him perfect for the Premier League. During his time with Lille, he scored some excellent goals and looked unplayable at times. In England, the pace of the game means that there are spaces to exploit and that is why players like Hazard, Riyad Mahrez and Dimitri Payet have been successful in this league.
To an extent, Boufal shares characteristics with all three. He has been compared with Hazard during his spell with Lille and many see him as the most exciting player at the club since the Belgian. Last season, Riyad Mahrez took the league by storm and Boufal shares a similar past, making their names in Ligue 2. They also both opted to play for an African country rather than France, where they were born. Boufal has a larger reputation than Mahrez did at the age of 22, but there are a lot of parallels between the two. Dimitri Payet was one of the signings of last season and Boufal could emulate him if he joins Southampton. He is a player who has the potential to play regularly in the Champions League and it would be a coup for Southampton to sign him.
Although he is a standout performer in Ligue 1, it is a risky market to buy from. For every Riyad Mahrez, there is a Florian Thauvin and for every Dimitri Payet, there is a Remy Cabella. All were highly rated in France, but only two succeeded in England. Another reason that bigger clubs have yet to make a move is that Boufal has had only 18 months in Ligue 1 and for the asking price, clubs needed to see more of him. At times he can be frustrating in the final third, but he is still learning his craft. His decision making is improving all the time and a move to the Premier League could take him to the next level.
The Premier League is the most competitive league in the world and moves like this one will only increase that. He is a great talent and Southampton could be a great step in his career. Claude Puel will know his game inside out from his time as Nice manager and will have a plan to help Boufal adapt quickly. He is currently injured, but should return to action next month. Southampton have been lacking creativity in their first two matches and need somebody to share the burden with Dusan Tadic. Boufal could be that man.