Southampton captain Jose Fonte is determined to cap a dream few days by getting the better of former manager Mauricio Pochettino.
One of Saints’ longest-serving players, the 30-year-old played a key role in the club’s rise from League One to the Barclays Premier League.
Fonte has remained an integral member of the team since their return to the top flight but continued to be overlooked by the Portuguese national team.
However, that changed this week when new coach Fernando Santos included the centre-back for the upcoming matches with France and Denmark.
Fonte is understandably proud with the call-up – “it is everyone’s dream, every player’s dream” – and would like nothing more than to celebrate with a win at Tottenham on Sunday.
“On Tuesday, the gaffer told me I was on the pre-list of 40 players, which was a first time anyway because before I had never been on those lists,” he said. “That was the first moment I got a little bit excited.
“I had the feeling and few people were already saying I might have a chance. I didn’t want to get carried away, obviously.
“[On Friday] when we were training, the gaffer came up to me and said ‘congratulations, by the way’ and then I knew I was in the squad.
“I am over the moon, obviously, but we have a game on Sunday and I need to focus on that now.
“I’m already focused. I’m 30-years-old now and I know I have a job to do Sunday. That’s the most important thing now and the game we need to be focused on.
“After Sunday, it is going to be a new experience, it is something I am going to be looking forward to.”
Sunday’s match is no bog-standard affair given it will see Pochettino face Saints for the first time since leaving for White Hart Lane.
When he left in the summer, few could have foreseen Saints heading into this match in such markedly better form.
Ronald Koeman’s men started the weekend second in the standings and going for a seventh successive win in all competitions in north London.
“We are looking to prepare for the game best way we can,” Fonte said. “Everyone knows the importance of this game.
“Everyone is looking at us now. We know we have a responsibility, we have an expectation but the only way to deal with it is to prepare ourselves during the week.
“That way we get to Sunday and are in good shape to get the result. That is what we have been trying to do and what we’re focused on.”
Despite Pochettino saying he still loves Southampton, fans are unlikely to show much – if any – affection towards their former boss at White Hart Lane.
Attempts to get Morgan Schneiderlin to come with him rankled with supporters and ultimately failed, with the board belatedly ended the talent drain from St Mary’s.
The 24-year-old was initially angered but has since calmed, becoming one of Saints’ best players in their fantastic start to the season.
That form has seen Schneiderlin retain his place in the France national team, meaning he could soon be pitting his wits against Fonte in an international match just a matter of years after playing in the third tier together.
“You have to look at it with a little bit of nostalgia,” the Portuguese told Southampton’s YouTube channel. “We started in League One, when we first met.
“We worked very hard to get here and it is a great story. It is something that we should be proud of.
“He has been there for quite a time now. I’ve managed to get in there now and I just hope we can meet many times now.”
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