Sofiane Boufal – Ligue 2’s most wanted man

Sofiane Boufal

It would be no exaggeration to state that Sofiane Boufal, Angers SCO’s 21-year-old creative midfielder, has lit the current Ligue 2 season up.

The Franco-Moroccan, who is extremely comfortable playing on either side of the park as well as behind his side’s lone centre-forward, Jonathan Kodjia, broke through into Stéphane Moulin’s side in the 2011-2012 season and became a regular starter in the following season. It’s Boufal’s form this year in France’s second-tier that has really enabled the skillful play-maker to win over fans and to attract a growing audience. The Angers number twenty-seven’s flair and composure has seen him linked with clubs of the stature of AC Milan, Juventus and Newcastle United, with Jean-Philippe Durand, Olympique de Marseille’s head of scouting, also believed to be an admirer of Boufal.

Who Is Sofiane Boufal?

Paris-born Boufal is a complete product of Angers SCO’s youth system, having grown up in the shadows of Angers’ Stade Jean-Bouin, in the city’s La Roseraie suburb. Remarkably, the star of his boyhood heroes was first noticed by youth development scouts from his future employers at the tender age of just five-years-old. Eventually progressing through the ranks to play for his side’s reserve squad in the F region of the CFA 2, the fifth-tier of French football, Boufal won himself a professional contract at age of 19, making his first Ligue 2 appearance in the same year against Istres. He has since gone on to make fifty-one appearances for Les Angevins, scoring vital goals and providing important assists. Now aged just twenty-one and on the verge of a call-up to the Moroccan international set-up, the two-footed winger is clearly one of the most exciting prospects that the game in France has to offer.

What Type of Player Is Boufal?

As he disclosed last month in an interview with France Football, the Angers number twenty-seven draws great inspiration from both Zinedine Zidane and Javier Pastore (who wears the same number as him at Paris Saint-Germain), citing that his favourite piece of skill is the ‘Zizou roulette’. Boufal shot to instant fame when he scored a simply sublime second-half goal which helped to give his side an impressive victory against high-flying Dijon in front of his own fans at the Stade Jean-Bouin in November. Picking the ball up on the left-wing, Boufal then cut inside to beat no fewer that five players, tearing the Dijon defense apart, before slamming the ball home with his right-foot.

Boufal impresses with his pace, his drive and his determination when dribbling. As a two-footed winger, the twenty-one-year old is happy on either flank, providing dangerous crosses as he attacks, as well as taking both corners and free-kicks for his side. As a result, he has provided three assists this season so far, but his ability to cut in from the wing and have a strike from distance has also helped him to reach an impressive tally of four goals so far in Ligue 2. Highlighting the importance of the midfielder to his side’s creativity, an impressive statistic noted by the Ligue de Football Professionel shows that 30% of passes completed by Les Angevins this season have been made by Boufal alone.

What Next For Him?

Sofiane Boufal

Sofiane Boufal

Boufal, as would be expected for any player in his current form, has been in recent months been the subject of increasing transfer speculation, with scouts from Ligue 1, Portugal, England and Italy all believed to have been tracking him. He was also believed to have been the subject of pre-season interest from Spanish side Granada CF, a club who are known to track French talent, having signed both the now FC Porto midfielder Yacine Brahimi and defender Dimitri Foulquier from France in recent years, but Boufal told France Football that his heart told him to stay at Angers.

The twenty-one-year old clearly has a great sense of loyalty to his formative club and understandably has a strong emotional link to the club that he grew up playing for and supporting. However with Angers unlikely to achieve promotion this season and with heightening interest from elsewhere , if Boufal is to further his career, a move away from the Stade Jean-Bouin seems inevitable. He is believed to prefer the chance to develop his career in France and a domestic transfer would be a highly desirable option for fans of the French game, eager to see French-born talent flourishing in France.

Following in the footsteps of the great France international Raymond Kopa, a player who also began his professional career with Angers SCO, we can expect to hear a lot more about Sofiane Boufal as his career continues to develop.

I'm a massive French football enthusiast, having fallen in love with all aspects and levels of the sport in France whilst working for a year in the town of Niort. As a French studies student, I'm constantly following what's going on in the French football media and bringing stories to the English-speaking world. I write a weekly Ligue 1 review for Backpage Football and cover Ligue 2 for French online magazine Dans La Zone 79
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