SOUTHAMPTON captain José Fonte believes Virgil van Dijk would be a high-quality addition if the Barclays Premier League club can coax the defender away from Celtic, writes Simon Peach.
Manager Ronald Koeman, pictured, is in the market for a new centre-back after Toby Alderweireld decided to join Tottenham Hotspur and Florin Gardos sustained a serious knee injury.
Steven Caulker recently arrived on a season-long loan from Queens Park Rangers, but the Southampton boss is determined to strengthen further and has targeted Van Dijk.
Signed from Groningen two years ago, the 24-year-old has flourished at Celtic and long-serving Southampton skipper Fonte would welcome his arrival.
“I know he’s a good player, obviously,” the Portugal international said. “He’s a guy that we’ve been linked to, but he’s not here yet.
“But if he comes he’ll be welcomed, like every other player that comes in this club.
“If he comes, he’ll add quality to the team and even more competition at the back, so it will be interesting.
“We are fortunate to have three very good defenders, centre-backs, so whoever comes they know they have to do a job, so I just hope I’m selected.”
Van Dijk has spoken of his desire to move to a more challenging environment and Everton have also been credited with an interest in the defender. Celtic have insisted the defender will remain in Glasgow, at least until the Champions League qualifiers are over. Celtic face Malmö in the play-off round on 19 and 25 August. The prize at stake is a place in the lucrative and prestigious group stage which could be worth as much as £20 million.
It is not just Van Dijk attracting admiring glances, with a recent report suggesting Crystal Palace were interested in bringing Fonte back to Selhurst Park, where he played from 2007 until joining Southampton in 2010.
“It is what it is,” Fonte said when asked about the speculation. “I have responsibilities and I have a contract in this club. It’s always flattering to have interest from other people, but I think it is what it is, like I said.”