José Fonte has submitted a transfer request and is said to want “to explore the opportunities” of a move. The Southampton captain, who helped Portugal win Euro 2016 last summer, has grown frustrated this season and was not selected by Claude Puel for any of the club’s six Europa League matches. Fonte’s contract runs until the summer of 2018.
Last month, Liverpool were linked with a move for Euro 2016 winner, and Les Reed, the Saints director of football, said the 33-year-old defender rejected an improved deal and has asked to leave.
“He’s had several opportunities to improve the contract situation. He’s reserved his right not to do that,” Reed told BBC Radio Solent. ”He’s made it very clear he would like to explore the opportunities for a transfer. That’s where we are at the moment, José wants to leave the club. He’s formally asked for a transfer.”
Fonte moved to St Mary’s from Crystal Palace in January 2010 and has made 288 appearances. Fonte has made 19 appearances, all starts, this season in the Premier League and EFL Cup, despite missing out in Europe. “Of course I’m disappointed,” Fonte said last month. “I want to play every game. I’m fit to play every game. I’m always on the dancefloor – I’m always fit. I worked really hard last year to play [in the] Europa League.”
Fonte was left out of the Southampton team at Bournemouth on 18 December and Puel was pictured in a lengthy conversation with his captain on the pitch before the kick-off. After the match, the manager was forced into explaining his rotation policy, under which he has made 30 changes across Southampton’s past six Premier League matches.
“Yes, I think of course all the players want to play every game, especially José as captain,” Puel said. “It’s important he keeps this quality every game. But to play a match every few days, this is not possible. It’s not possible for me that 11 players can play all the games. And now for international players like José it’s not possible to keep a good level every few days.”
Reed also said Southampton are yet to receive a formal bid for Fonte, who has previously been linked with a move to Manchester United or Everton, the latter coached by the former Southampton manager Ronald Koeman. Everton made an offer in the region of £7m for Fonte last summer. It was under Koeman, in October 2015, that Fonte agreed his last contract with the club.
Fonte had posted a message on Instagram last month to “set the record straight” over speculation about his immediate future. The Portuguese said he did not reject a new contract offer, adding: “I have been informed by Southampton that they are not offering me a new contract.”
However, Reed insists fresh terms have been offered to Fonte. “What was offered to José was, in my view, quite significant off the back of the contract he signed in October 2015,” Reed said. “Six months later we were prepared to improve that contract and extend it. He has turned down the opportunity to increase his salary, and he’s turned down the opportunity to get another permanent year on his contract.”