Jose Fonte’s future has featured prominently in today’s gossip columns, with the Telegraph suggesting Manchester United are poised to make a move for the Southampton captain in the January transfer window.
The latest rumours surrounding the 32-year-old, which are also being reported in The Sun today, claim Fonte turned down a new contract with the Saints that would have made him the highest-paid player at the club, with reported wages of around £80,000 per week.
Despite being club captain and Southampton’s longest-serving player, Fonte is said to be unhappy with his current employers after they failed to notify him of Everton’s interest in signing him in the summer. After winning Euro 2016 with Portugal, the centre-back was the subject of serious interest from a number of clubs and Ronald Koeman appeared keen to take Fonte with him to Goodison Park. While he was unsuccessful during the off-season, the former Southampton manager still remains interested in signing the player in January.
Current boss Claude Puel has spoken about Fonte’s situation, but his comments give no indication either way about the player’s future.
“Jose has a contract and after I don’t speak about the contract of the players. It’s a story between the club and the player and this is private.”
Manchester United’s interest in the player seems less concrete. Reports suggesting Mourinho wants to sign the Portuguese defender centre around the links between player and manager. Both share an agent in Jorge Mendes and it seems to be this association that is fuelling much of the speculation about a move to Old Trafford. While a move for Jose Fonte would be easy to facilitate given the prominence of their representation, it seems a little hard to believe that Mourinho would be interested in signing a player who turns 33 next month, especially given the return to form and fitness of Phil Jones, in addition to Eric Bailly’s impressive start to life in English football.
Jones surprise return to first-team action has impressed many; he has now played every minute of the last six matches in all competitions, his longest run in the first team for over two years. Having ousted both Daley Blind and Chris Smalling from the line-up and formed a solid partnership with Marcos Rojo, Jones has given Mourinho reason to believe he should become a permanent fixture in the side moving forward.
Eric Bailly has only just returned from injury himself, missing the last nine matches with a knee injury picked up against Chelsea. His early performances were magnificent and he immediately cemented himself as a pivotal figure in Mourinho’s back four. After taking his place on the bench for the draw against Everton at the weekend, Bailly should be fit to start for United sooner rather than later. As Manchester United enter a busy Christmas period, Bailly’s involvement will be vital as United desperately seek a run of results that sparks new life into their season.
Although United will lose the Ivorian to the Africa Cup of Nations in the New Year, his absence won’t hit as hard as first expected. Both Jones’ and Rojo’s performances have proved that United can cope without him and may not need to recruit a replacement in January as was first expected.
Phil Jones is still only 24, while Bailly is remarkably just 22 years old. Signing Jose Fonte, who at 33 would represent little more than a temporary measure, makes very little sense. That is before you factor in the qualities of Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and the emergence of two academy prospects, Axel Tuanzebe and Ro-Shaun Williams. It would seem any rumours linking Manchester United to Southampton captain Fonte are just that, rumours.