West Ham sign Southampton defender Fonte

London, Jan 21 (IANS) West Ham United have announced the signing of veteran Portuguese defender Jose Fonte from their English football league rival Southampton on a two-and-a-half-year contract for a fee of eight million pounds ($9.9 million).

“I signed for West Ham because they are a great club and a very big club. They have a lot of fans and I have known for a number of years how passionate they are,” the 33-year-old Euro 2016 winner with Portugal told West Ham’s website on Friday night.

“The manager (Slaven Bilic) was also a very big influence. I thought that he really wanted me and that he sold me the project and the ambition of the club.”

Fonte was linked with a range of clubs in the top flight before opting to move to West Ham.

The experienced central defender has enjoyed a successful career in English football since initially joining Crystal Palace in 2007, before going on to make 154 English Premier League (EPL) appearances and captain Southampton for the past three-and-a-half seasons.

A strong and technically-gifted defender and respected leader, Fonte wants to take his career to another level at London Stadium and revealed that he cannot wait to pull on a Claret and Blue shirt for the first time.

West Ham, who finished seventh last EPL season, have been struggling this term. They are at the 12th spot with 25 points from 21 matches.

“With the way that West Ham is going we can only look to be challenging in the top eight,” Fonte said.

“I told the manager in conversations that we want to win and we want to win trophies. The ambition is big and we need to aim high,” the former Crystal Palace player added.

“West Ham are a massive club and it is an exciting challenge and it should be for everyone. We all need to get together and start working.”