• Moroccans Abroad: Sofiane Boufal out in the cold after Mark Hughes bust-up

    (The Guardian) Sofiane Boufal has been banished from Southampton’s first team after an altercation with Mark Hughes during the Premier League defeat by Chelsea and will not be considered for Saturday’s game against Bournemouth.

    The Morocco midfielder, a £16m club-record signing from Lille in 2016, was a substitute against Chelsea at St Mary’s and is understood to have refused to warm up when Hughes instructed him to do so. That apparently led to a clash in the dressing room after Southampton, who had led 2-0 with 20 minutes to play, were beaten 3-2 – since when Boufal has not been in the squad.

    “Unfortunately, Sofi made a mistake, which he acknowledged and he has acknowledged to me since,” said Hughes, who is alleged to have lost his temper with Boufal post-match, with some reports suggesting he threw a water bottle.

    “At the moment he’s training with the under-23s. He’s missed a few days’ training because he was ill but, given where we are at the moment, he’s probably best served training with a different group just to make people aware the situation we found ourselves in wasn’t what should have happened.

    “He understands that now. He probably needs to rebuild a bit of trust with us and his team-mates. That’s what we’re working on. He won’t be involved this weekend. We’ll have to wait and see [whether he can return this season].”

    Hughes, who succeeded Mauricio Pellegrino in mid-March with Southampton having won once in the league since late November, has made clear the need for focus as he attempts to instigate a late revival.

    In that context, Boufal’s reaction could not be tolerated, leaving a player who started the new manager’s first two games but has only two goals and two assists in 26 league appearances this season, an outcast for the foreseeable future.

    “I spoke about focus on the very first day in the job here,” Hughes said. “We can’t allow anything to distract us from the task at hand. We have very few games left. If I feel something might affect that focus, I have to address that.

    “That’s the situation we find ourselves in with Sofi. He made a mistake. He’s remorseful about it, which he needed to be, and we’ll build him back up to be in the group again. But the time for that isn’t now. It’s about him biding his time, doing the right things, until he’s reintegrated.”

    Hughes, who signed a deal until the end of the season, is increasingly resigned to being without his influential midfielder Steven Davis after the 33-year-old sustained an achilles injury.

    “It’s an irritant to him and to us, clearly,” the manager said. “He’ll have a couple of days’ training and then it flares up again. We’ll see where we go with it. We’ve had him scanned and they’ve shown damage in the achilles, so maybe we have to shut him down until next season. I don’t think that’s definitive yet but it’s maybe close.”

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