Are we looking at Southampton’s most important player this season?

Despite unfortunately failing to make the PFA team of the season in recent weeks – thanks to the selector’s somewhat unfounded preference for Chelsea’s Gary Cahill – Jose Fonte still nevertheless has to go down as one of the standout defenders of the entire 2014/15 season.

Thanks to his resolute performances at the back for the Saints this term, Ronald Koeman’s side have been able to play out the current campaign in real style with such an impressive defensive record on board.

At the point of writing, Southampton currently sport the least goals conceded across all their counterparts in the Premier League. The likes of Maya Yoshida, Toby Alderweireld and of course captain fantastic Jose Fonte, have only let in the slender total of 26 attempts this season – one less than title leaders Chelsea, and a far shot fewer than their nearest placed rivals in the table, Tottenham and Swansea.

So then, despite the reasonable hype surrounding both Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlin in the English game’s current round of transfer talk and speculation, Jose Fonte must categorically go down as the player Southampton have to hold on to at all costs throughout the coming summer, regardless of where Koeman’s other stars eventually end up playing next season.

Fonte made his debut in English football largely as an unknown entity with Crystal Palace back in 2007. From there, the former Benfica man slowly but surely made a name for himself in the Championship, eventually sealing promotion to the Premier League with Southampton after the Saints impressed many onlookers during the 2011/12 season.

Since plying his trade in the ever persistent spot-light of top level English football however, the defender’s rise has been rapid to say the least. The no. 6 proved a rock at the back for the St. Mary’s faithful last season alongside the now departed Dejan Lovren – and although the big Croatian eventually moved on to Liverpool and left his former side to fend for themselves in his absence – Fonte has seemingly thrived as a result of his new found responsibility.

With all things considered, Southampton have been able to build most of their success this season on the unflinching foundations laid by Ronald Koeman’s back four on a week-to-week basis. The towering Saints captain – who has since made minor strides with the Portuguese national team in recent months – has been at the heart of everything that’s gone well defensively down at St. Mary’s this season, yet with such an expansive skill-set on offer from Jose Fonte of late, that really can’t come as much of a surprise.

The 31-year-old has simply transformed himself from a determined, yet limited, Championship centre-back, to one of the many first class defenders that currently ply their trade in the Premier League. He can not only perform all the instinctive aspects of the modern game to a very high level – such as blocking, dominating physical battles and proving successful in the air – but Fonte is also able to organise his back-line affectively for the entire 90 minutes, as well as proving adept at reading the game with some truly impressive consistency.

All in all then, Ronald Koeman’s no. 6 might just have to go down as the most important player the St. Mary’s faithful have paid witness to this season, putting aside some of the perhaps more high profile names in the current Saints squad.

Yes, the likes of Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic and Morgan Schneiderlin have all played massive roles for their side this term – but as none have quite matched the level of significance as their captain’s contributions have so far achieved – Jose Fonte ultimately could well be considered his team’s greatest asset.

With the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United all likely to be in the hunt for some much improved defensive talent this summer however, the 31-year-old’s so far loyal relationship with the Southampton fans may be on the verge of facing its biggest test yet in the approaching summer months.

All we can do now is watch this space, and hope for the St. Mary’s faithful at least, that a repeat of last year’s summer exodus doesn’t return to haunt Ronald Koeman’s team this time around.