Southampton boss Claude Puel has confirmed Jose Fonte is in the process of deciding his next club and could leave sooner rather than later.
Puel was asked about reports of Fonte potentially joining West Ham, and he 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.”
Southampton on Wednesday kept a clean sheet in their 1-0 FA Cup third-round replay defeat of Norwich, when England Under-21 international Stephens was given a rare start in central defence.
On Sunday they host Leicester in the Premier League, in which they hope to end a run of four straight defeats. The manager will again rotate his team as they begin another demanding run of four fixtures in nine days, but he will again overlook his influential captain through a concern his players may become distracted should he play.
“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 (transfer) 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.”