Southampton star Jose Fonte looking forward to Europa League campaign

Arsenal v Southampton 2012 Pregame with Schneiderlin

The defender is focused on leading the Saints out in Europe next season.

Try telling Southampton captain Jose Fonte that Thursday night Europa League football isn't something to look forward to, and you'll probably be asked to explain yourself by the big defender. 

The Portuguese, who won his first international appearances this season, has been at St Mary's for five years, and clocking up over 220 appearances, but this is the first time he will get to experience any kind of continental competition.

And speaking to Southampton's official site, he left it very clear how excited he was to be taking the Saints into Europe for the first time in twelve years.

“Leading the team out in Europe is something you play for,” Fonte said. “It’s something that will make me proud and honoured to do.

“Everyone should be excited. It’s a massive achievement from where we were. Five years on we’re in Europe.

“It’s something that everyone who loves the club and wants the club to succeed should be very proud of and we are all looking forward to some exciting European nights."

The captain's point is a refreshing one, with many players at other clubs lusting after Champions League football or nothing.

For Fonte, the fact Southampton are an established Premier League force, set to play in Europe, only five years after being stuck in League One, is indicative of the progress made by everyone associated with the club.

It also takes the 31-year-old back to his time at Vitoria Setubal nine years ago, when Fonte sampled his two only experiences in European football.

“I’m excited because I’ve experienced European football only twice and I saw how special it was. The whole atmosphere is special,” he added.

“It’s something special for the players as well. I’m very happy and excited to be playing in Europe again.

“It’s almost the pinnacle. It’s not the same as the Champions League but it’s the next step. For me personally it will be great to be back in European football.”

Southampton were given a Europa League spot after Arsenal beat Aston Villa in the FA Cup final, with the Gunners already assured of Champions League qualification.

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