Saints captain Jose Fonte has submitted a formal transfer request after turning down the offer of an extended contract.

Executive director Les Reed has ended weeks of speculation over the centre half’s future at St Mary’s by confirming that Fonte, who has led Saints from League One through to European football during seven years at the club, has asked to leave.

Reed insists that Fonte was been offered both a pay rise and an extension on his current deal, which has 18 months left to run, and yet exercised his prerogative to turn it down, eyeing one last big move.

However, Reed is adamant Fonte will only leave in January if there is a suitable offer AND Saints can instantly replace him. If not he will stay until the summer at least.

Reed said: “Yes. He has formally asked for a transfer.

“He mooted this earlier in the summer when he rejected the original offer to improve his contract and has repeated it since. In doing so he has declined the opportunity to both improve and extend his contract.

“Those are the facts on the table. The other fact is that we haven’t had enquiries for him, so will he leave or will he not leave? I don’t know.

“He certainly won’t leave on the basis that he can just go.

“We would not consider releasing him unless there was a decent transfer fee and secondly that we were in a position to replace him. If anybody comes along on the last day of the transfer window it’s not going to happen.

“He’s aware of all that and he has been very professional. He has played well when he’s played, and he is our captain, and if he remains at the club, which I would say is a strong possibility, then we would expect him to play the second half of the season in that manner right the way through.

“Jose is obviously 33 years of age, and maybe feels there is a different opportunity for him out there to be able to finish his career with a bumper contract. He has been a great servant to the club and we respect that.

“It is what it is and we will wait and see if anything transpires.”

Saints have been criticised for the outside appearance that they had not offered Fonte any extension to his deal, but while Reed would not divulge direct details, he did insist that was not the case.

“I am not going to go into the details of what was offered to Jose,” said the Saints football chief.

“What was offered to Jose was quite significant on the back of the fact he signed a contract in October 2015. So six months later we were prepared to improve that contract and extend it.

“The question of another year is not one we have rejected. He has turned down the opportunity to increase his salary and he has turned down the opportunity to get another permanent year on his contract.

“It is not right for me to go into the details of his contract.”

  • Read more from Les Reed including his thoughts on Virgil van Dijk's future, the January transfer window and Claude Puel in tomorrow’s Daily Echo