Southampton captain Jose Fonte has hinted that he will not refused the opportunity of moving to Manchester United this summer should the opportunity arise.
The Portuguese centre back, who has played for the south coast club since 2010 and racked up 243 appearances, has enjoyed a raised profile as many of his countrymen have since sealing Euro 2016 glory so impressively in France this summer.
Speaking to Meis Futebol through quotes translated by ESPN, Fonte has this to say on the speculation:
“If the interest is there, it is a reason to be flattered to be associated with a club like Manchester United.
“But I have a contract with Southampton, and I’m just focused on my work, to make a great season. I will not deny that Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in the world and that it makes me happy to be associated with it. But to be Manchester United’s player is a big difference.”
Fonte’s manager Claude Puel has attempted to pour cold water on the rumours:
“I do not think there is a possibility for Jose to leave us. I am sure that he can play all these games. He is very proficient.
“[Fonte has] rejoined training. I do not know if he will start the game [on Saturday] but we will see.”
Puel might be being diplomatic here. Fonte is 32, and offers from a club of United’s size are a rarity to players in his age group. Typically, unless it’s a special exception like Bastian Schweinsteiger last summer, United won’t purchase anyone over 30 years of age, and often only offer yearly extensions to those at the club over that age. Even so, for Fonte, it could be now or never, and with the identities of United’s centre back partnership for this season less than certain, Fonte’s experience and leadership qualities could see him become a vital part of what Jose Mourinho has in mind at Old Trafford.
ESPN have gone one further today and suggested that United have begun informal talks with Southampton regarding Fonte’s transfer.
“Southampton would not stand in Fonte’s way if a bid was to come in, and any deal — likely to be for a fee of £8m — would be far less than the high price United would have expected to pay for someone more high-profile.”
If Mourinho wants the player, then it appears that United have a clear run at sealing Fonte’s signature. Decisions would need to be made on the futures of Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, who would surely be surplus to requirements, but at this stage, the possibility of a deal being brokered for Fonte looks encouraging.