Claude Puel says it is essential Southampton resist any bids for captain Jose Fonte with just three weeks of the transfer window remaining.
Fonte has climbed through the divisions with the South Coast club since joining in 2009 from Crystal Palace, and captained the club as they achieved their highest Premier League finish last season.
The 32-year-old started Portugal’s 1-0 win against France in the final of Euro 2016 and has consequently been tipped to follow Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama out of the exit door but Puel reiterated his desire to keep the former Sporting CP youth teamer at St Mary’s.
“For me, and of course for Southampton, it is very important to keep Jose,” the former Lyon manager told a news conference ahead of Southampton’s 2016-17 opener with Watford on Saturday.
“He is a very important player for the team, a good player. I don’t see the possibility for him to leave us.”
The French coach admitted that the ongoing speculation has disturbed Southampton’s preparations ahead of the new season but praised Fonte’s dedication to the club.
“I am sure he can play the next games with a good attitude and spirit because he is very professional,” he added.