Earlier in the month, Saints captain and central defender Jose Fonte shocked Southampton fans with a transfer request. Fonte has been like a rock for Southampton, having been with the team since 2010 and helped the team win back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League. Fonte has been captain since August of 2014. He has made over 250 appearances for the club, and would seem to have entered into “team legend” territory, staying with the club after successive waves of his teammates have come and gone onto “bigger” clubs in the Premier League, with players such as Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Rickie Lambert all being transferred on after helping lead the club from a League One punchline to a contender for European spots in the Premier League.
The transfer request has attracted attention from teams all over the Premier League, and West Ham will have competition to sign a member of the Euro 2016 winning Portugal squad. Everton and Crystal Palace are both rumored to have interest in the 33 year-old, with Ronald Koeman previously managing at Southampton and naming Fonte captain while both were on the south coast. Crystal Palace would also be familiar for Fonte, as he made 92 appearances and scored six goals in the Championship for the south London club.
The Sun has reported that West Ham has submitted a bid of 4 million pounds for the defender, and after the dismal showing against Manchester City, any defensive help has to be a top priority for manager Slaven Bilic and the club’s board. Besides buying an actual right back and possibly a striker, central defender has to be a top priority for the east London club, since the club has one of the worst defensive records in the top flight this season. Besides Winston Reid, no other defender at the club has been consistent and Bilic cannot keep playing players out of position and hope to do anything this year except possibly avoid relegation. While Fonte, at 33 years old, is not a long term fix for the club, his leadership and ability should help stabilize the backline and allow the team to focus on scoring goals, not trying to park the bus to hang on to slim leads.