West Ham United have agreed an £8 million fee with Southampton for unsettled defender Jose Fonte, sources close to the Hammers have said.
Fonte’s future has been the subject of intense speculation all month after he handed in a transfer request at Southampton after failing to agree a new deal at St Mary’s.
Fonte, who has made 288 appearances for Southampton, was in the final 18 months of his contract and sources said Saints have reluctantly agreed to let him move on during this month’s transfer window.
A number of clubs had expressed an interest in the Portugal international, but West Ham, after seeing an initial offer for Fonte rejected earlier this month, have returned with an £8m bid which has been accepted.
The 33-year-old and his representatives are now set to hold talks with West Ham and sources said the London club are hopeful of finalising a move for Fonte in the next 24 hours.
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic is keen to bolster his defensive options with Angelo Ogbonna, Winston Reid and James Collins his only recognised central defenders at the club, and he sees Fonte as being a key addition to his plans.
Asked on Thursday about reports of Puel joining West Ham, Southampton boss Claude Puel said: “Jose has different possibilities. He has the solution and the opportunity to see this, and we will see what the situation is in a few days.”
“[Fonte] was in training [on Thursday] morning with the players and he works normally with good spirit, and like a professional.
“We will see after the situation of Jose. We tried Jack against Norwich. It’s important to see possibilities for different players and opportunities for the players.
“Perhaps we will stay with the same squad. We will see this when we reflect.”
Puel also said the transfer market has made it difficult for him to prepared to host Leicester in the Premier League on Sunday.
“This situation with Jose is difficult for the squad,” Puel said. “It’s difficult for him also. It’s not just about this market; it’s been since the beginning of the season.
“It’s been a difficult situation for Jose because he’s always in discussions with the club, about contracts, or no contracts.
“I took a decision at the beginning of this window to keep Jose out the team, to study different possibilities and to protect the team from all this speculation about Jose.
“With this many games it’s important to keep focused about our game, not just on the situation of Jose. It’s difficult, but the squad can take the responsibilities.”