Name: José Fonte
Despite seeing several star names head through the exit door at St Mary’s over the last 18 months, Fonte stayed loyal to Southampton. The 32-year-old was rewarded for his loyalty by being appointed captain by manager, Ronald Koeman.
It represented the respect the club showed for the centre-half in a time where club’s best players have regularly been cherry-picked by bigger sides.
Fonte scored in the Saints’ promotion-clinching victory in their final game of the Championship in 2012. It was a particularly sweet moment for the Portugal international, having been a member of the Southampton squad which was in League One just five years ago. He has continued to produce in the top division and is the heartbeat of the South Coast side.
Under Koeman, formally one of the best defenders in Europe, Fonte has flourished. Southampton’s goal difference last season was only bettered by eventual champions Chelsea, as they conceded just 33 league goals. This season has been more of a struggle for the Saints, but following the 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal on Boxing Day, Fonte and his teammates have been a formidable side once again, as no team has scored past them in over 300 minutes of Premier League football.
The defender will be essential if the Saints are to better their seventh-placed finish last season, and the fans hope they can once again provide them with a shot of European football next season.