Manchester United are set to step up their pursuit of Southampton defender Jose Fonte after prime target Raphael Varane extinguished any chance of a possible move to Old Trafford this summer by committing his future to Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho is keen to bring an experienced defender before the close of the summer transfer window to add to the signing of Eric Bailly from Villarreal.
The Ivory Coast international started at centre-back during their win over Bournemouth in their opening Premier League game, and also played the entirety of their Community Shield win over Leicester City. But the Portuguese manager, despite rating Bailly highly, is unsure if he can cope with the pressure of playing an entire season owing to his lack of experience at the top level.
Varane and Leonardo Bonucci were Mourinho's prime targets to add experience to the back line at United, but the duo have declined a chance to move to England, with the former confirming his intentions to remain with the Spanish capital club. The French defender struggled to nail down a regular place in the starting XI last season, but revealed that talks with Zinedine Zidane has convinced him to remain and fight for his place alongside Sergio Ramos and Pepe.
"I talked with him a lot and he trusts me so it's one of the reasons I stayed. I made the decision to stay, the right decision," Varane said, as quoted by the Manchester Evening News.
"I'll continue to improve and I want this to be a good season for me and to be at my best," he added.
The Real defender's decision to remain at the Santiago Bernabeu has prompted Mourinho to turn his attention to Fonte, who has been with Southampton since 2010. The Portugal international, who was part of the squad that triumphed at this summer's European Championships, admitted he is flattered by the Red Devils' interest. The Saints, however, are unwilling to part with their skipper with manager Claude Puel making it clear that he will remain with the south coast club.