By support

14th Aug, 2016 | 10:01pm

Everton blow as Premier League giants open talks with defender target - reports

By Harvey Byrne

Manchester United have held informal talks with Southampton over Everton target Jose Fonte, according to a report.

ESPN have claimed on Sunday that Jose Mourinho is intent on signing an experienced man in defence and the 32-year-old fellow Portugese has emerged as the best and most realistic option.

This comes after the Sun claimed that Ronald Koeman had targeted a £9million move for Fonte as he eyed a replacement for England international John Stones, who joined Manchester City earlier this week for £47.5million.

It is believed that United have discussed the possibility of signing Leonardo Bonucci with Juventus, but they were put off by the likelihood of lengthy discussions with the Italian club.

Meanwhile, Mourinho’s former player and Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane is understood to have rejected a move to Old Trafford.

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It is understood that Southampton would not stand in Fonte’s way if a bid was to come in for him with a fee likely to be around £8million.

The Portuguese international has been a key figure for the Saints since joining the club in League One six-years a go.

The defender took over the captaincy from Adam Lallana in 2014 and he had also signed a new contract with the club last October, which still has two-years left to run.

It was believed that Southampton had also offered the Euro 2016 winner a new and improved contract in order to fend off any interest from their rivals.

However, the defender was mysteriously restricted to a position on the bench on Saturday as the Saints faced Watford.

Koeman, who moved to Merseyside in July from the Hampshire club has looked to add Premier League proven players to his squad and he has brought in Maarten Stekelenburg, Idrissa Gueye and Ashley Willams, while a deal for Yannick Bolasie looks imminent.

The Toffees will be hoping for European football under Koeman in the coming season, after two disappointing seasons under Roberto Martinez which resulted in his sacking.

In other Everton team news, Sunderland are continuing to play hard-ball with the Toffees in their bid to prise Lamine Kone.