Southampton's Centre-back update: Van Dijk staying put, Fonte perhaps on his way

Southampton's Centre-back update: Van Dijk staying put, Fonte perhaps on his way

Southampton will not sell their star centre-back this January, but his partner and captain could be packing his bags in the new year.

kit-shepard
Kit Shepard

Southampton players linked with a move away. It's not really news anymore. 

For the past couple of years, so many Saints players have been said to be setting sail from the South Coast and, more often than not, these rumours have proved to be true.

As 2017 and thus the January transfer window approaches, the usual speculation has begun again. This time it is Southampton's first-choice centre-backs; Virgil Van Dijk and Jose Fonte who, at very different times of their career, are supposedly on their way of St Mary's.

However, the Saints are not prepared to let their defence be forced into a dramatic reshuffle midway through the season, and have assured the Southampton faithful that Van Dijk will be staying put until at least the summer.

Meanwhile, club captain Fonte's superb tenure in the red and white stripes could be close to its conclusion, with the club admitting that they would consider offers of a sufficient price for the ageing defender.

Van Dijk going nowhere

For the last season and a half, Virgil Van Dijk has been the undisputed best player at Southampton. He has played every minute of Premier League football since signing for the Saints on deadline day in September 2015. His dominance in the air, composure on the ball and ability to start attacks from the back make him invaluable for manager Claude Puel.

Van Dijk's fantastic form has put him at the top of many clubs' shopping list.. Photo: Getty.
Van Dijk's fantastic form has put him at the top of many clubs' shopping list.. Photo: Getty.

It is unsurprising then that, despite interest from both Manchester clubs, Van Dijk will remain a Southampton player until the end of the season. Both City and United have been allegedly preparing bids of around £40 million but, if the Dutchman's current club keep their word, they are wasting their time.

Nevertheless, there is a general acceptance on the South Coast that the 25-year-old will indeed be sold in the summer. With Van Dijk's contract lasting until 2022, the Saints will pocket a very large sum of money, should he continue his exceptional level of performance. For now though, these performances will be in the colours of Southampton.

Fonte future less certain

With one centre-back definitely staying, Southampton could be willing to let another go, namely captain Jose Fonte. After joining the club in 2010 and in League 1, the Portuguese international has been with the club every step of the way during its remarkable rise, but could be set to leave at last.

Fonte joined Southampton in the third tier of English football. Photo: Getty.
Fonte joined Southampton in the third tier of English football. Photo: Getty.

Things have been far from rosy behind the scenes at St Mary's, as Fonte refused to accept a pay increase to £70,000 per week in the summer. With the 33-year-old's contract expiring in the summer of 2018, the club were not willing to offer him an extension, knowing that his career would very much be in its twilight by then. 

After being a permanent fixture in the Southampton starting XI for almost his entire Saints career, Fonte has been in and out of the first-team this season, and revealed his frustration at being overlooked for the club's Europa League matches.

As a result, should a club be prepared to pay the £15 million required, Fonte will most likely be sold this January. Both Manchester United and Everton have shown interest, but whether they are willing to pay a huge fee for a player on the wrong side of 30 remains to be seen. 

After unsuccessful contract talks, Fonte will be allowed to move on in January for the right price. Photo: Getty.
After unsuccessful contract talks, Fonte will be allowed to move on in January for the right price. Photo: Getty.

With his contract running out, Southampton will be desperate to get some money for their skipper, meaning that like Van Dijk, Fonte will most likely not be a Saints player by the start of next season. It is whether he goes in the new year or the summer that is uncertain.

What next for Southampton?

While nothing is set in stone, it appears that come the end of the season, Southampton will be making wholesale changes to the centre-back position. 

The masters of planning ahead, the Saints will undoubtedly have their replacements already lined up, and the acquisition of a new defender in January is very possible, regardless of whether Fonte stays put or not.

However, despite their proven track record of being able to find suitable alternatives for their departing players, replacing the legendary club captain and star man will test Southampton's superb recruitment system to the limit.

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