There were high hopes when Southampton broke their transfer record to sign winger Sofiane Boufal from LOSC Lille in 2016 but unfortunately, like many other recent signings at the South Coast club, it proved to be an extremely poor signing from both a footballing and financial perspective.
The Saints hierarchy, namely executive director Les Reed, paid £16m to sign the Moroccan international following an impressive season in France, where he contributed 11 goals and four assists in 29 Ligue 1 appearances.
However, his time at Southampton proved to be an unmitigated disaster, as he managed just five goals and five assists in 84 appearances for the club.
It wasn’t as if Boufal wasn’t given regular opportunities to impress, as he made more than 20 Premier League appearances in all of the seasons he spent with the Saints, although he did have to play under four different managers in Mark Hughes, Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino and Ralph Hasenhuttl, which may go some way towards explaining his poor performances.
However, the tricky winger failed to average above a 6.7 rating for his performances in any of the three seasons he spent at Southampton, although he did show some signs of improvement in a loan spell at Celta Vigo in 2018/19.
There was never any doubt that Boufal possessed a lot of talent, with the Moroccan scoring an extraordinary solo goal against West Brom in 2017 that was later the winner of the Premier League goal of the season award, however, he wasn’t able to produce these moments of magic consistently in a Southampton shirt.
The winger would make 20 league appearances for the Saints last season, in which he would manage no goals and two assists, and despite his contract having another year to run, the club were more than happy to get him off the wage bill by allowing the 27-year-old to rejoin his old side Angers SCO on a free transfer last summer.
That was the final nail in the coffin for Boufal’s time on the South Coast, with his performances on the pitch in no way justifying the fee that Southampton paid, whilst their decision to let him leave for nothing emphasises just how desperate they were to be rid of him.
To let a £16m signing leave for nothing merely highlights how big a disaster that Reed decision was in 2016.