SOFIANE Boufal made it clear that leaving Saints never crossed his mind.

The Moroccan international spent last season on loan at Celta Vigo before returning to St Mary’s for pre-season in the summer.

So far, it’s proven to be a triumphant return, with Boufal slotting seamlessly into Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first team.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Boufal admitted his delight at being back on the south coast, saying: “[Of course] I am very happy to be here.

“My mindset was to always stay here.

“I spoke with the club during the summer and told them that I didn’t want to move and that I wanted to stay here.

“I am very motivated and happy to come back.

“I want to progress at this club and stay here. I want to leave the club through a big door and not a small door.”

Saints fans were always hopeful that Hasenhuttl would be able to transform Boufal’s game in a similar way to how he helped Nathan Redmond develop.

However, there was always a question mark whether the 26-year-old would buy into the manager’s way of playing.

The messages on Twitter about what Hasenhuttl could do to a player of Boufal’s ability didn’t go unnoticed by the playmaker.

“I always have a good relationship with the fans and I am very happy about that,” explained the former Lille man.

“I saw a lot of messages about me and the new manager and that also made me want to stay because the fans trusted me.”

Speaking about the first time he met Hasenhuttl, Boufal added: “It was a meeting where it was just about his philosophy and what it’s like to play in his team and everything else.

 “I wasn’t nervous [to meet Hasenhuttl] because I was very, very focused on staying here – even if some other club wanted me.

“I didn’t want to move and since the first day, I have been very focused.

“We always need to prove but, yes, I need to prove the most because I left the club not in a good way, so of course I wanted to show people I am here, and I will help you.”

In the many clips Saints put up from training, they tend to focus on something spectacular Boufal has managed to do.

Whether that’s getting a ball stuck in the top corner or embarrassing defender Maya Yoshida during a rondo, it’s clear he brings a smile to the dressing room.

“I always had a good relationship with my teammates, even when I left I kept in contact with some players,” explained the Moroccan.

“I was watching all the games. It was hard for me to leave this club because I really wanted to stay, but it was a moment for me to go and then come back stronger.”