Jose Fonte isn’t happy at being cast as the villain following his $10 million move from Southampton to West Ham United in January.
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Fonte, 33, left Saints after seven years at St Mary’s with Southampton stating publicly that their club captain wanted to move on.
The Portuguese international center back was linked with moves to Manchester United and Liverpool in the summer after impressing in Portugal’s EURO 2016 win but instead he stayed with Saints and ended up moving on in January to the Hammers with moves to Old Trafford and Anfield always seeming a little far-fetched.
Speaking to Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness ahead of West Ham’s London derby against Chelsea on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Fonte was asked if he was harshly treated on his departure from Saints.
“No doubt. You need to know all the facts,” Fonte said. “It’s tough to see in the press you’ve put in a transfer request, which I didn’t. I never wrote a letter to the manager or the club saying I want to leave because even when that came out in the beginning of January I didn’t have a club to go to, so why would I put in a transfer request? It was tough to see that and to hear people saying bad stuff about you when it’s a lie. But this is football – you learn how to deal with things like this. At least I have the opportunity to put it right.”
Fonte said it was a “disappointing ending” to his time at Southampton and was also angry with many media reports stating that he refused to play and train for the club until he had a move lined up.
He also stated that Saints “weren’t willing” to compromise over a move in the summer after he made it clear he wanted to explore other offers on the table for him.
“When I see all over the news that I submitted a transfer request to leave the club – that’s disappointing. That never happened. There was an interview from the club; from a press conference that I demanded to leave, which then the press took it as a transfer request and I wonder where is it?
“As I said before, in the summer there were possibilities of leaving – that’s normal, everyone fights for their own interests to get the best possible outcome for yourself. To say that I wrote an official transfer request to the club, that’s a lie. And also that I refused to train and I wasn’t being a good captain? That’s a complete lie. I’ve always given my best to that club. That’s the main thing the fans should know. My conscious is very clear.”
The Portuguese center back has played alongside Dejan Lovren and Virgil Van Dijk in recent seasons in the Premier League and he’s so often been overlooked as the guy who gives you 7 out of 10 each and every game. There’s no doubting he was instrumental in guiding Saints from the third-tier to the Premier League’s top six and after arriving in the PL at the age of 29 he was a late bloomer.
Still, you get the sense that with him changing his agent last summer to Jorge Mendes he was pushing hard for a move away from St Mary’s. Southampton have stated on numerous occasions they had offered Fonte a new deal, with an extra year and an increase in wages, but he instead decided to leave. Saints begrudgingly accepted his move to West Ham in January in a good will gesture for his service to the club.
However, ahead of the EFL Cup final Van Dijk suffered a long-term injury and that left Saints without their two first-choice center backs at the start of the season. Had Fonte played in the final against Manchester United — an agonizing 3-2 defeat in a game they dominated — instead of the talented yet young academy product Jack Stephens, would he have lifted their first piece of silverware since 1976? Who knows.
Still, Fonte leaving Saints has hurt his legacy with some of the clubs fans and despite his insistence that he is the victim, we all know how these things work.