Fonte could be dropped until transfer window is closed 203

Claude Puel has hinted that Jose Fonte could be left out of the Saints squad until the end of the January transfer window.

The Saints defender has turned down the chance to extend his contract and take a pay rise, and has told the club he wishes to leave this month.

Puel has been prepared to play Fonte over the past few months, despite knowing his skipper’s feelings on the matter, but with the window open is now having to make a decisive stand.

Although matters could change if the 33-year-old is still at the club at the close of the window, or if Saints really need Fonte to step into the breach during their fixture pile-up, Puel indicated he would be left out for the time being, including for tomorrow night’s EFL Cup semi-final first leg tie with Liverpool at St Mary’s.

Puel said: “I want to keep stability for these games with a player without movement in the window market. It is important to keep stability on the team and it is difficult for us, for me, with a player perhaps in two days here and two days out to another club. It is just to respect this.

“It is a particular situation and I try to have the good answer but it’s not easy. It’s not easy for the staff, it’s not easy for the player to play with this condition and this situation. It is not easy for the squad but we are professional, and our work is to give an answer on particular work, and this is a particular situation in the window market.”

The decision leaves Puel with just two experienced centre halves – Virgil van Dijk and Maya Yoshida – while youngster Jack Stephens might also be required with a hectic period in progress.

“Perhaps we will see Stephens for example, a possibility, and after with Jose the situation for the moment is this,” said Puel.

“After the window market it will be another situation and we will see at this moment.

“For the moment it is a reality and we take this reality and this situation to keep stability normal.

“I say Jose we keep stability for the next game and we will see for the next game.”

When asked whether Fonte could play at all this month, or the situation remains the same until he leaves or the window closes, Puel replied: “I cannot answer game after game.

“The situation for the next games is this, but I know that if we need with the urgency of the situation I know I can count about Jose, because it’s a professional player, important, and I know he gives the best on the ground. This is important.

“I respect Jose and I know we can count on him if the situation is like this.”

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