Tuesday 20 February 2018

Sofiane Boufal facing wait to make Southampton debut due to "little injury"

Southampton manager Claude Puel is happy that the transfer window is now shut
Southampton manager Claude Puel is happy that the transfer window is now shut

Southampton manager Claude Puel does not expect to have record-signing Sofiane Boufal available for at least another month as the attacking midfielder builds up his fitness.

The Saints broke their existing club-record fee of almost £15million, which they paid for Dani Osvaldo in 2013, when they brought in Boufal from Lille ahead of this summer's transfer deadline.

However, Southampton fans will have to wait for the chance to see the 22-year-old in action as Puel confirmed the Morocco international is not yet fit.

Puel said: "Boufal has a little injury for the moment.

"He works very well every day and now it's important he (puts in) good work, has a strong knee and when he comes back with us he can play with a good level and all the possibilities.

"I don't know (an exact time frame). I think one month more to have a good level.

"He's started to come on to the training ground with different exercise at the beginning.

"For the future when he comes back with the squad all the people can see Boufal in another way."

As well as bringing in Boufal on a five-year contract, Southampton managed to keep hold of a number of key players ahead of deadline day, including centre-back Jose Fonte and striker Jay Rodriguez, who were both linked with moves away.

Frenchman Puel is happy they can now concentrate on the Premier League, where they face Arsenal this weekend in their first match back following the international break, before taking on Sparta Prague in the Europa League next Thursday.

"For all the trainers it's important now to know the window (is closed) because it is difficult for the staff and for the players," Puel said.

"Many players can be disturbed by different solicitations and it's important now to work with good concentration.

"The squad now is concentrated on doing good work against Arsenal. It's important."

He added of Manchester United-target Fonte: "Jose is important, captain of the team with a good spirit and a professional player. It's important to keep him.

"Jay also. He scored his first goal in the last game and it was for him to enjoy his first goal in two years.

"I saw this on the training ground with (Rodriguez having) more confidence, more possibilities.

"I think it's interesting for Southampton to keep Jay because we have in the future more and more games every three days.

"It's important to have a good squad for different games."

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