Jose Fonte will have the choice of a contract extension or remaining on his current deal, but will not be allowed to leave for Old Trafford, sources say.
This firm declaration comes as interest from Jose Mourinho continues to swirl even in the wake of his team’s meeting with Fonte’s Southampton, thought to be the point-of-no-return for any potential move.
While neither Manchester United nor any other side have officially tendered bids for the 32 year old Portuguese’s service, the rumours have come so consistently that even the man himself has felt pressured to respond to them.
Speaking to the media last week, Southampton’s captain told Portuguese source Mais Futbol he was “flattered” by United’s interest but appeared to downplay any speculation of an imminent departure.
“If the interest is there, it is a reason to be flattered to be associated with a club like Manchester United,” Fonte told the publication.
“But I have a contract with Southampton, and I’m just focused on my work, to make a great season,” he continued.
“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.”
While the captain very likely intended that statement to put paid to the idea of his departure from St. Mary’s, it appears to have had the opposite effect. Continued praise of the club targeting you, after all, does little to assuage fears you might end up there.
It’s done little to dissuade Mourinho either, who has yet to make a bid but seems to be lining up a last minute shot; reports suggest the United boss may sell off some of his defenders to make room for his presumptive new arrival.
With Mourinho seemingly prepped for one last charge at the Southampton centre-back, Claude Puel has moved to head his counterpart off at the pass, reportedly telling Fonte not to expect any bid to be entertained.
In lieu of a move to Old Trafford, the club have reportedly offered their erstwhile captain two options: remain on his current contract at his current pay, or take a two-year extension with a pay rise commensurate with his experience and role in the club.
Should the 32 year old Fonte take the latter offer, he can reportedly expect to receive around £70,000 per week in wages, roughly equivalent to Manchester United’s expected offer. The deal, which would keep him til 2020, would make him Southampton’s highest-paid player.
As is often said, every move in the transfer window can be read as a statement of intent. The intent here seems to be Claude Puel and Southampton drawing a line in the sand, and continuing to build on the team’s core for the future.
It’s been a frequent criticism of Southampton that the club fold too easily when the big boys come calling, and a big part of how the club came to be known pejoratively as a “selling club.” In holding their captain against siren call of England’s greatest stage, the club is effectively signaling that those days are over.
Should Fonte choose the contract option—and it is truly difficult to imagine he wouldn’t—he will run down his career aged 36, having spent 10 years with Southampton. What the club offer is more than money, it is a chance to cement a career as a legend of the South Coast.
It is a well-deserved opportunity for a player who has been the team’s rock, on and off pitch, since the dark days of League One. It would be a shame for Jose Fonte to pass up such a golden chance.