Manchester United have had a busy summer and it doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon, as Jose Mourinho looks to build a squad capable of winning the title at the first attempt. They have already acquired three players and a move for Paul Pogba is believed to be close at what will be a world record transfer.
Another man who is believed to be on the club’s radar is Jose Fonte, who was linked in the Sunday papers. He had a superb Euro 2016, playing a huge role in Portugal’s triumph after starting the tournament as a substitute. In the final, Fonte was one of the best players on the pitch, restricting France to few chances and showing his leadership throughout the match.
The Portuguese international has had a slow rise to the top, having left his homeland to play in the lower leagues with Crystal Palace and Southampton. His experience in the Championship and League 1 was important in his development, as he learned a great deal about English football.
Since Southampton were promoted to the top flight, he has been an ever-present for the side and has gained the captaincy in recent years. During his time in the top flight, Fonte has been one of the most consistent defenders in the league and his triumph with Portugal has only elevated his status.
The link with Manchester United may have caused some to raise their eyebrows, but it could be a shrewd move from Mourinho. Fonte would provide experience and proven quality in the division, something that new arrival Eric Bailly doesn’t possess. He would be seen as a short term solution by Mourinho as he looks to model the defence in his own image.
Chris Smalling is the only centre-back that Mourinho knows he can rely upon. Bailly is raw and will need time to settle in the league. Phil Jones is injury-prone and Daley Blind doesn’t fit the profile which Mourinho looks for in his central defenders.
The Manchester United manager likes two strong, towering centre-backs, both of whom are vocal and can threaten from set pieces. Jose Fonte fits that profile perfectly. Over the last two seasons especially, the Portuguese international has been excellent and showed signs that he could make the step up to play for a better signs. His performances in France only underlined this further, as he helped his country to European Championship glory.
Another reason why Fonte would be a good signing for Manchester United is that he would not cost a massive amount. He is now 32 and approaching the latter part of his career.
Southampton are a forward-thinking club and would seriously consider an offer of around £8 million for their captain. Manchester United have already spent big this summer and with Pogba to follow, a cheap deal for Fonte would be well received.
It is clear that Mourinho is likely to view Smalling and Bailly as his long term centre-back pairing. However, we have seen how centre-halves can find the Premier League difficult to adjust to – just ask Eliaquim Mangala. If they sign Fonte, there will be less pressure on Bailly to perform immediately and the Ivorian can be eased in slowly.
Personally, I can’t see this move happening, purely because it has come out of left field and it makes more sense to use Phil Jones initially. However, it is one that could work if it does indeed take place. Fonte is an experienced operator, who would be keen to test himself at a huge club like Manchester United. Also, with the Portuguese link, it is one that could potentially happen.
However, Manchester United have been signing high profile players this summer and it would take a huge paradigm shift to move for Fonte before the window closes.
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