THE Africa Cup of Nations is a crucial tournament for Sofiane Boufal.

Saints outcast Boufal has the chance to either play himself into the transfer window or impress manager Ralph Hasenhuttl with a string of fine performances.

Alternatively, he could have a shocking tournament for Morocco and do neither of the above which really would leave him in the wilderness.

Boufal spent last season on loan with Spanish side Celta Viga, who according to reports in Spain are keen to sign him permanently if Saints will lower their valuation.

The playmaker made 40 appearances for the La Liga outfit, scoring three goals to help keep them in the top-flight.

A report in the Spanish media claimed Saints were looking to recoup £14m for Boufal, with Celta wanting to spend around £7m.

Many supporters want to see Boufal given a second chance on the south coast.

The general consensus is that Hasenhuttl will be able to improve a player who clearly has the potential.

Hasenhuttl showed during his first six months in charge that he has the ability to take players to the next level.

Boufal will only have to look at Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse as case studies.

The duo performed excellently in the second half of the season and their goals ensured Saints maintained their Premier League status.

25-year-old Boufal showed glimpses during his time at Saints that he could be a key player for them.

His goal against West Brom at St Mary’s will live long in the memory of those in attendance after he went on a dazzling run before slotting the ball home.

However, if the Moroccan international has a poor Africa Cup of Nations, he could find himself wondering where his career will go next.

It will be difficult for Saints to sell him for a decent price if he fails to make an impression on the international stage.

This would leave him in limbo and, realistically, see him shipped out on loan for another season.

Neither Boufal or Saints would want this scenario, especially as they want to complete an overhaul of the squad ahead of next season.

Boufal is back in action tonight for Morocco in their group stage game against Ivory Coast.

The Atlas Lions started their Africa Cup of Nations tournament with a 1-0 win against Namibia last weekend, with Boufal coming on as a second-half substitute.