Southampton manager Claude Puel has confirmed that captain Jose Fonte will not be part of his squad to face Liverpool in the EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old defender, who has 18 months left on his current contract, handed in a transfer request on Thursday with Saints director of football Les Reed admitting that Fonte wanted to “explore opportunities for a transfer”.
Fonte, who joined Southampton in 2010 from Crystal Palace, was absent for Saturday’s FA Cup draw against Norwich and Puel has decided to leave him out again for the first leg at St Mary’s, although the Frenchman refused to rule out selecting the Portugal international in the near future.
He said: “Jose won’t participate for this game.
“We will see for the next game. It is important to keep stability.
“We do not know the future of Jose, it is a difficult situation in the market. I respect Jose, it is not an easy situation for the staff or players. It is difficult.
“We will see (about including him in the future), I do not comment on the possibility (of him moving). I think it is important to respect the other players.
“It is an opportunity also for Jose to view different opportunities and it is important to respect this.
“For me, it is important to keep stability in defence first, and second, we will see what the situation of Jose in this market is.
“If Jose came to leave the club, it is normal for us to look at other opportunities (to buy players to replace him).
“It is important for us to remain open in the market and look at other opportunities, we do not know about other opportunities yet, it is difficult for the club to improve the squad this month.”
Meanwhile Saints midfielder Sofiane Boufal will miss the African Nations Cup due to a knee injury. The 23-year-old was due to link up with Morocco for the competition but has been forced to pull out and Puel is hopeful he will be back for the club within a few weeks.
He added: “Boufal is injured with his knee.
“His knee needs operating and he cannot do the African Cup. He will stay with us to recover.
“I hope he can come back in a few weeks.
“He cannot play for his country but I hope he can recover.
“It is not a bad injury, after the operation the reaction will tell. It is important to get a good recovery.
“He can stay calm because now he is an important player for the club, he has quality and it is important he comes back strong.”