Morocco suffer another setback as Boufal is ruled out of Afcon
RABAT: Southampton’s record signing Sofiane Boufal has been sent home from Morocco’s African Nations Cup training camp after injury ruled the midfielder out of the tournament.
“Sofiane Boufal has left the camp after examination of his injury showed he would not be capable of playing at the Nations Cup,” the Morocco Football Federation said in a statement.
It gave no details about the injury and there was no immediate comment from his Premier League club. Morocco, who are training in the United Arab Emirates, played Finland in a friendly yesterday before heading to the tournament, which starts in Gabon on Saturday.
The Moroccans kick off their campaign against the Democratic Republic of Congo in Oyem on 16 January but their chances of success have been hit by a lengthening injury list that includes midfielder Younes Belhanda, sidelined with a broken toe. Oussame Tannane is also out due to a thigh injury and Watford winger Nordin Amrabat with an ankle problem.
Boufal’s return to England could be a boost for Southampton, who faced losing the player for five weeks if Morocco reached the Nations Cup final, but the injury will also bea concern for a side currently 10th in the English top flight.
Southampton have had a crowded fixture schedule, including Europa League group matches before their exit last month, and have looked jaded lately with a run of three straight league defeats in which they have conceded nine goals and scored twice.
They host Liverpool in a League Cup semi-final first leg tomorrow.
Having to lose key players to the African Nations Cup has long been a bone of contention for Premier League managers, with the tournament coming at a stage of the season when clubs are chasing trophies or are locked in a battle to stay up.
Southampton have been luckier than some of their rivals, with Boufal their only player called up for the tournament. Stoke City and relegation-threatened Sunderland have both had to relinquish three players.