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Knee injury rules Boufal out of AFCON

Morocco will be without Sofiane Boufal at the Africa Cup of Nations after the Southampton midfielder pulled out of the squad with a knee injury.

Boufal joined Saints from Lille for a club record fee reported to be £16 million in August and has made 15 appearances in all competitions, scoring twice.

The 23-year-old, who underwent knee surgery last May, was included in Herve Renard's 23-man squad for the competition in Gabon that begins on January 14, but has been forced to withdraw.

"Sofiane Boufal has a knee injury and he cannot go to the Africa Cup of Nations," said Southampton manager Claude Puel.

"He will stay with us to recover. I hope he can come back in three weeks.

"It's not a serious injury, it's an inflammation of his knee, but he cannot play and he cannot play for his country.

"It's just an inflammation. It's not a bad injury, but it's important to be careful about this injury.

"It's a good thing he can stay quiet, because I think he is an important player who can make the difference with his quality."

Morocco begin their Group C campaign against DR Congo in Oyem next Monday.