Claude Puel expects Jose Fonte to remain a Southampton player

Jose Fonte
Image: Jose Fonte starred in the European Championships for winners Portugal

Southampton head coach Claude Puel expects captain Jose Fonte to remain at the club this season.

The 32-year-old centre-back is reportedly a target for both Manchester United and former Saints boss Ronald Koeman at Everton this summer.

But Puel, who replaced Koeman in June, insists the European Championship-winning Portugal international is a key member of the first-team squad along with his compatriot Cedric Soares.

Asked, after his side beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 in their final pre-season friendly, whether he expects Fonte to be a Saints player this term, Puel told Sky Sports News HQ: "Yes. He is a very important player for the squad and the team.

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"It's fantastic to have two players that are champions of Europe, with Soares. Only we can say that. Jose came back with the squad and it's important to keep him with a good head and attitude."

Puel has led Southampton to four pre-season victories over DC United, FC Zwolle, Twente and Groningen and he insists it is important to breed this winning mentality heading into their Premier League opener against Watford next Saturday.

Nice's French head coach Claude Puel looka on during the French Ligue 1 football match Guingamp against Nice on May 14, 2016 at the Roudourou stadium in Gu
Image: Claude Puel is pleased with his side's pre-season preparations

"I hope these players know how to win games. It's important to win every game if possible, and to have good possession to please our fans," he said.

"Pre-season, with friendly games, is interesting. It was a good game. The last one was very important for the confidence to score and win, so we can see many good actions and play, and situations on the ground.

"We played a very good team today, with a strong defence and good structure. It was important to find space and play football. Perhaps one or two more goals would have been good but it's okay for the beginning."

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