Southampton’s Portuguese international centre-half Jose Fonte is reportedly a transfer target for Manchester United as Jose Mourinho seeks to add experience to his back-four, but if the Reds are to raid the south coast for a Euro 2016 winner they’d be better off buying Cedric Soares.
Mourinho is understood to be keen to recruit an experienced central defender and sees Fonte, currently the subject of a £9m offer from Everton, as a budget alternative to Juventus stalwart Leonardo Bonucci or Zenit St Petersburg’s Ezequiel Garay.
United, 18/5 second favourites in the Premier League outright betting behind 5/2 market leaders Manchester City, managed to end the campaign with the Premier League’s joint-best defensive record.
Yet, they were seldom totally convincing at the back, with no consistent unit emerging over the course of the season.
Nowhere was this more evident than at right-back, where Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Guillermo Varela, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Ashley Young and Paddy McNair all started at least once in the position in divisional action.
Southampton’s Soares could well be the answer to the Reds’ issues in the role, having taken the move from Sporting Lisbon to St Mary’s so well in his stride that he emerged as a target for Barcelona earlier this summer, as the Blaugrana seek to replace the departing Daniel Alves.
The 24-year-old averaged three tackles and 2.3 interceptions per league game in 2015/16, the second and joint-third best in the Saints’ squad on those metrics respectively.
Going forward he mustered a mean 1.2 key passes and 1.3 accurate crosses an outing, in each case doubling the totals of Young, the best of United’s right-backs for those attacking statistics.
Rather than bringing in Fonte, who has been left at Southampton while his centre-back partners were picked up by bigger clubs for two seasons in succession, in a hardly necessary penny-pinching endeavour, cherry-picking a more up and coming Saint to fill a problem position might make more sense.