Why is retaining José Fonte so critical for Southampton?

After his exploits with Portugal in France at Euro 2016 this summer, and a sterling season at Southampton in 2015/16, speculation was always going to be rife regarding the future of Saints skipper José Fonte, even before his manager at St. Mary’s Ronald Koeman upped-sticks to Merseyside to take over at Everton.

Yet now, despite reported interest from his former coach, as well as compatriot José Mourinho at Manchester United, the 32-year-old centre-half is expected to remain at the Hampshire club according to Southampton’s new boss, former Olympique Lyonnais and OGC Nice coach Claude Puel.

 

Alongside compatriot Cedric Soares who also featured in Portugal’s Euro 2012 winning side, Fonte is a key member of the Southampton rear-guard and with more games than ever before in a season after the club sealed qualification for the Europa League, Saints need his experience and influence now more than ever before, and keeping him at St. Mary’s will be vital for their progression.

Why is this? Firstly he has all the pedigree that comes with being a European champion. Despite never playing in European competition with Southampton at club level his big game experience with his country will prove invaluable experience for the side, particularly given their contingent of young players. Maintaining a core of experienced heads will be vital for their European campaign as well as their domestic exploits, and Puel having coached Lyon to the Champions League semi-finals will need no reminding just how vital experience is in a side blended with youth and more senior players.

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Fonte has also been with Southampton since the dark days. The Portuguese has been with Southampton on their journey from administration and the doldrums of League One to the dizzy heights of the Premier League top ten once more and the excitement of a European campaign.

He knows the ethos of the club and as captain epitomises the correct attitude to have and the application necessary when wearing the Saints shirt, and having gone through two promotions and an international title whilst at Southampton, he has a winners’ mentality, and after a promising pre-season campaign Puel will recognise how crucial it is to keep that at the forefront of everything the club produces. And how better to do it by showing the statement of retaining their skipper?

Fonte has been a stalwart for the club throughout their remarkable rise and has seamlessly made the transition from League One to the Premier League, impressing in all three divisions and proving his worth as a top level international defender in a top-ten Premier League outfit. Europe for him is the next step at club level, and whilst he may be more than capable of playing for a bigger club, it would make sense for him to make the transition with the side he has known for all these years and make his presence further known before attempting to strut his stuff with a big name club.

 

At Southampton and indeed with Portugal, he has benefitted from minimal expectation and thriving with the pressure off. Were he to move it would be a stark contrast, and it is the fact that there is little pressure on him at Southampton which has given him a platform to perform at his best, and with every display even as skipper he has looked unfazed regardless the quality of the opposition. It is this which may be a vital part of why Fonte is expected to remain with the club.

Besides using his experience to effect on the European and domestic stage, he has a lot to offer the crop of youngsters coming through at Southampton. Through the last three managerial reigns at the club, those of Nigel Adkins, Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman, the club has done its business via the philosophy of attractive football with an emphasis on bleeding through youngsters. To give younger players the best opportunity to thrive, experience elsewhere in the squad is vital, and in defence arguably even more so. Fonte has a leader’s and a winner’s mentality, and is undoubtedly the right player to lead the side through what may be their most exciting season yet if Puel can build on the foundations of his predecessors.

 

Even with change, a familiar presence, a leader, one who knows the club and its surroundings, is absolutely necessary. It is for this reason that Southampton must retain José Fonte, and as long as he remains at the club, his presence will continue to reap rewards for the South Coast club. The man himself is now a European champion, and with Europe a realistic target for Southampton on a consistent basis, the club needs winners, and if this one in staying put, then supporters can really begin to get excited about what will be next for Fonte and indeed for Southampton Football Club.


Featured Image: All rights reserved by EstebanReyes22

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