Southampton manager Claude Puel dismissed claims that contract talks with defender Jose Fonte may distract his side ahead of tonight’s pivotal Europa League clash against Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
Both sides enter the encounter locked on seven points with the winner earning a place in the last 32 of the competition, but continuous speculation over the future of Southampton’s skipper has featured heavily in the build-up.
Speculation heightened this week when Fonte took to his Instagram account to state that he has been informed by Southampton that he will not be offered a new contract.
Puel insists their attention must stay on their Europa League hopes rather than the personal situation of the Portuguse.
“It’s a situation and discussion between the player and the club,” Puel said when asked if the club had begun negotiations over an improved deal.
“I cannot give a comment about this. When I see this on newspaper I repeat the most important thing for me is to speak about the team and about the game tomorrow and not just this personal situation, an individual situation.
“It’s important always for me to respect the collective. The subject for me is to discuss and to speak about the game, an important game, and about the collective and the team.”
Midfielder Steven Davis believes the club are used to dealing with the pressures of his team-mates being linked with moves away from St Mary’s, claiming Fonte’s contract situation has not been brought up in the dressing room.
“We are well used to it by now,” said Davis.
“In my time here we have sold a lot of players, a lot of big players, and it shows we are doing things the right way.
“It can only be taken as a positive that other teams are interested in players. I know we have a lot of quality in the dressing room and I’d be surprised if other teams weren’t looking at us.
“We all know what the club means to Jose and what Jose means to the club. He obviously has a personal situation there which has not been discussed in the dressing room.
He’s the same character, he’s doing his best in training every day, and pushing the team on, and that’ll not change.”
Dusan Tadic may return to action after wearing a face mask in training to protect his broken nose while Matt Targett (hamstring) is the only long-term absentee as Puel has a fully-fit squad to choose from.
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