Former Southampton captain Jose Fonte has spoken out about the way that he was forced into leaving the club back in 2017.
The Portugal international spent seven years with Saints and experienced a huge amount of success in that time.
Further individual success at Euro 2016 sparked a huge amount of interest in him from other clubs though and led to negotiations at St Mary’s over an improved contract. However, no agreement was reached and he left for West Ham three years ago.
Speaking to BBC Radio Solent, Fonte explained:
“They released a transfer request which I did not send. When they did that, they left me with no alternative and told me that I had to leave.
“What I was asking for (in contract) wouldn’t have even put me in the top three earners at the club. I wasn’t asking for the world – I was just asking what I thought was fair for me.”
In all, Fonte made 286 appearances for Saints after signing for around £1.2m from Crystal Palace back in 2010.
Eyebrows were raised initially when he moved to Saints when they were in League One and Palace were in the Championship, but his choice paid off hugely in the end.
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His leadership in defence proved a huge part in successive promotions from the third-tier to the Premier League and he then worked hard to become a high quality defender in the top-flight.
Saints would only learn how foolish they were to let him leave after he had gone though.
As the now 36-year-old states in his interview with BBC Radio Solent, Saints were not willing to give him a significant increase in salary – probably because he was 33 at that point.
He also speaks about how Director of Football Les Reed became difficult to deal with and how he did not receive support from manager Claude Puel, although the Frenchman was in a tricky position.
Really though, the club needed him as a captain in defence as they dropped right down the table.
His demands only came about because his successful Euros with Portugal had alerted many other clubs who were now fully aware of the qualities that he can bring.
In the end, a stand off between the player and Saints forced a move to London. Yes he was the wrong side of 30 when he left, but the fact that he is still playing regularly in Ligue 1 for Lille these days shows that he could have played a few more seasons on the South Coast.