Brands’s value to date and the scale of the challenges facing him

A look at the challenge Marcel Brands faced when he arrived at Everton, what he's done to resolve it and the big issues ahead in the summer

Paul The Esk 05/01/2021 15comments  |  Jump to last

The January transfer window is open and, as usual, there will be thousands of column inches and podcast minutes devoted to speculation about players arriving or departing Finch Farm.

Twelve months into his tenure as manager at Everton, Carlo Ancelotti has become the public face and voice of all matters relating to football. Director of Football, Marcel Brands, publicly at least, is much less visible. With Brands’s 3-year contract due to expire in June 2021, there is speculation as to his future role in the club. Personally, I believe he is integral to our future. Yes, Ancelotti (and most likely Farhad Moshiri) will wish to dominate future player acquisitions which is arguably inconsistent with the strategy and purpose of having a Director of Football. However, player acquisition is only part of Brands’s role. (Indeed transfers generally are only part of the role.) In addition to the academy, sports science, sports medicine etc, moving players on either permanently or on loan is equally important, especially given the continued stretching of Everton’s finances. Portfolio management of the squad of players is extremely important.

Marcel Brands joined Everton in June 2018 after the madness and indiscipline of the summer of 2017 and January 2018 recruitment (during which £183 million was spent on player acquisitions). In order to assess the task before him, it is worth looking back at the squad he inherited. As at the end of the 2017-18 season, this is the group of senior players contracted to Everton:

Goalkeepers Defenders Midfield Forwards
Pickford Keane Schneiderlin Bolaise
Robles Mangala Gueye Lookman
Stekelenburg Funes-Mori Besic Broadhead
Hewelt Holgate Barry Gordon
Williams Klaassen Walcott
Jagielka Davies Mirallas
Browning McCarthy Lennon
Pennington Baningime Tarashaj
Feeney Charsley Tosun
Collins Duke-McKenna Calvert-Lewin
Baines Sigurdsson Niasse
Galloway Rooney Ramirez
Coleman Vlasic Lavery
Kenny Hornby

A total of 48 players costing the club £145.5 million in wages and carrying £66.9 million in amortisation costs. Of the 48 players, as at the beginning of January 2021, just 30 months on, only 14 remain contracted to the club. Among the 14 there are Besic, Bolasie and Broadhead, each with contracts expiring in June 2021 and with no prospect of making an appearance in the Everton first XI before their contracts expire. Thus, in less than 3 years, less than 25% of the initial squad remain.

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Analysing the movements of players year by year, there are several key characteristics – a somewhat eclectic but improving purchasing pattern, a huge number of loan moves (particularly at U-23 and out-of-favour senior players) and some very astute disposals. There’s also a persistent core of nonperforming player assets.


Manager: Silva

Key purchases: Richarlison, Mina, Digne, Bernard (free)

Key loans in: Zouma, Gomes

Key sales: Klaassen, Funes-Mori, Browning, Robles (free), Rooney (free)

Key loans out: Mirallas, Besic, Ramirez, Williams, Bolasie, Martina, Niasse, Holgate

As a result of the player movements, Everton spent £89.8 million, received £25.8 million and made a player trading profit of £20.3 million. Wages increased to £160 million and amortisation to £95.1 million – however, with regards to those figures, it should be noted that the financial year was 13 months as the year-end moved to end of June.


Manager: Silva, Ancelotti

Key purchases: Iwobi, Kean, Gomes, Gbamin, Delph, Branthwaite

Key loans in: Sidibé

Key sales: Gueye, Lookman, Vlasic, Onyekuru, McCarthy, Mirallas (free), Jagielka (free), Williams (free – end of contract)

Key loans out: Besic, Bolasie

As a result of player movements, Everton spent £108.9 million, received £72.45 million and made a player trading profit of £40.5 million. Wages increased to £164.8 million and amortisation to £99.2 million for the 12 months to June 2020.

2020-21 (to date)

Manager: Ancelotti

Key purchases: Godfrey, Allan, Doucouré, Rodrigues (free), Nkounkou

Key loans in: Olsen

Key sales: Schneiderlin, Dowell, Stekelenburg (free), Garbutt (free), Ramirez (free)

Key loans out: Kean, Walcott, Pennington

End of contract: Niasse, Martina, Tarashaj, Baines (retired)

As a result of player movements in the summer window, Everton spent £67.4 million and received £4.0 million.

The squad now looks as follows (U-23s in italics):

Goalkeepers Defenders Midfield Forwards
Pickford Keane Gbamin Gordon
Olsen Godfrey Allan Richarlison
Lossl Mina Doucouré Calvert-Lewin
Virginia Holgate Gomes Tosun
Branthwaite Davies
Barrett Digne Delph Broadhead
Hansen Nkounkou Baningime Bowler
Tyrer Coleman Rodriguez Simms
Kenny Sigurdsson Bolasie
Iwobi Onyango
Astley Bernard
Anderson Besic
John Jagne
Small Carroll

Whilst few would argue that the first XI has improved enormously since the summer of 2018, there’s no doubt watching the team play, week-in & week-out, that the squad remains unbalanced, has significant weaknesses in covering key areas (full-backs and central attack) and in need of a player on the right wing. However given the less-than-ideal circumstances (relating to both Covid-19 and our underlying business model) plus Ancelotti’s & Brands’s reluctance to do business in January, it is difficult to see how that can be achieved in this window. Quizzed regarding transfer activity at the most recent pre-match press conference on 30 December 2020, Ancelotti, whilst as ever masterful at providing non-answers, replied “We are not talking about this. We are focused on recovering the players who have not been with us in this moment.”

Looking forwards

With combined losses of greater than £250 million in the last two years, clearly the existing business model is unsustainable (despite a £60 million player trading contribution in that time). For the last 18 months, when asked about my view of likely activity in the transfer market, my opinion is that we are not in a position to buy players. However, I have always qualified that with “unless we sell players, take on more debt, or Moshiri funds the transfers through injecting new cash into the club”. The activity noted above demonstrates that, under Brands, we have managed to move many players on, albeit less quickly in several cases than we would have liked. A core of players with little prospect of playing for the first team remain... although this coming summer sees both Besic and Bolasie complete their contracts with no prospect of renewal.

I have argued recently that the two alternative methods of funding transfer activity are extremely unlikely to be available to us in the near future. Given the proposed stadium development, reduced revenues arising from the absence of match-going fans and uncertainty over future broadcasting and commercial revenues, Moshiri’s limit to future funding (as suggested by the proposed share issue) beyond working capital requirements and the fact that we are using the bulk of our credit facilities on normal operating expenditure, then the prospect of player acquisitions seems slim.

However, the need for player acquisitions and player disposals, particularly in the Summer of 2021, is very clear.

A large number of existing players have contracts expiring on or before June 2022 (see below). Of those expiring this summer, Olsen has the prospect of being offered a permanent contract (subject to agreement obviously). Some of the U-23s may be retained but self-evidently, Bolasie, Besic and Pennington will leave the club.

The real issue is what to do with the players with contracts expiring in June 2022. Most clubs do not (for obvious reasons) want players they wish to retain entering the final year of their contracts without having or being close to having agreements in place. This summer, that means decisions will have to be made on contract extensions for Sigurdsson, Bernard, Coleman and Delph. Then decisions on younger players such as Kenny, Branthwaite and Baningime. Everton have a 1-year extension option for James Rodriguez.

2021 2022 2023 2024 2025
Olsen Rodriguez * Digne Richarlison Calvert-Lewin
Sigurdsson Allan Pickford Keane
Bolasie Bernard Doucouré Iwobi Godfrey
Besic Coleman Mina Gbamin Holgate
Bowler Delph Davies Gomes Gordon
Pennington Tosun Nkounkou Kean
Broadhead Kenny Virginia
Hansen Lössl Jagne
Ouzounidis Branthwaite
John Baningime
Barrett Iversen
* 1-year extension available

Of the senior players, offering Sigurdsson a 2-year extension would make financial sense. It would retain a transfer value (should we/he wish to sell/move on) and, from an accounting point of view, reduce his amortisation costs from £8.9 million a year to £3.8 million (based on a 2-year extension).

Coleman, given his service to the club (and the absence of right-back alternatives) will, I imagine, subject to his fitness, be offered a 1-year extension. However, what happens to Tosun (assuming no buyers), Bernard, Delph and Kenny?

One of the key tasks of the summer, apart from improving the squad with no doubt, Ancelotti-inspired player acquisitions, is solving the issue of those with 12 months left on their contracts. Not only will we need to have a plan as to who is retained and is useful, who we can sell and who might just see their contracts through to conclusion, we have to have a view on where the replacements are coming from.

Challenging summer

Whilst Summer 2021 will no doubt be a buyer's market, Everton have significant issues to resolve within their own squad but also face real financial pressures, seemingly have few prospects to be promoted from the academy (Simms, but that’s a different story) and our ability to look overseas for Brands’s inspired bargains potentially curtailed by Brexit.

Against that backdrop, and given the degree of change already made to the squad portfolio, it seems to me that Brands’s job is not even half complete (we haven’t even spoken of the structural and management changes require to the academy). His role as portfolio manager of those contracted to Everton Football Club is not complete. Despite the buffeting winds of managerial changes, Covid-19 and the indiscipline of Everton’s player purchasing in the Moshiri era, Brands has proved (in my opinion) to be adept at his job. We need him to complete the task of removing previous poor acquisitions, retaining upcoming and existing talent, and working alongside Ancelotti re player acquisition in difficult times generally but specifically at Everton.

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Reader Comments (15)

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Karl Masters
1 Posted 05/01/2021 at 23:58:23
I'd agree with most of that.

Think we will still be looking at buying players. The squad is a good one, needing maybe three more quality acts to propel us to true top 4 potential.

I wouldn't be too surprised if we cashed in on Richarlison and reinvested the whole amount. I can't see Barca being able to offer £85M again though.

One thing stands out – we haven't half wasted a lot of money in the last 4 years!

Habib Erkan Jr
2 Posted 06/01/2021 at 00:38:50
Thanks Paul for an excellent analysis. Really appreciate the time and effort you put in the article.
Martin Mason
3 Posted 06/01/2021 at 09:33:32
Excellent article, as always, Paul.
Ajay Gopal
4 Posted 06/01/2021 at 12:24:42
Paul, as always you go a fantastic job of sifting through the data, analysing it and presenting it in a coherent fashion, so that we as fans can form a more informed opinion rather than the “I can do a better job than Brands, and Everton don't have to pay me anything” nonsense that gets spouted on here frequently. Much appreciated, Sir.
Kevin Prytherch
5 Posted 06/01/2021 at 12:37:32
“Thus in less than 3 years, less than 25% of the initial squad remain.”

Sorry, but this shouldn't be a phrase to congratulate Brands with. A great deal of players either left because their contracts expired or had their contracts cancelled.

It might have been more interesting to quote a percentage of players that Brands has actually managed to get rid of before their contracts expired.

Also, Walcott and Kean have been omitted from the second list (still contracted) while the second list contains U23s in italics whilst the first list doesn't. Heavily skewed to make Brands seem better than he is.

  • Was Duke-McKenna ever actually part of the first team?
  • Will Brands's job of getting rid of players finally be complete in 2 years time when everyone's contract has expired?
  • Are we to ignore the ridiculous increase in wage costs?
  • What about the 7 senior pros signed by Brands, each for big money or substantial wages, who are not considered first-team regulars? (I've even excluded Mina from that list.)

Until this season (decent fees for Allan, Rodriguez, Doucouré and the signings of Nkounkou and Branthwaite), I would say that Brands has not been a success.

Brian Harrison
6 Posted 06/01/2021 at 12:40:57

Yet another great and informative piece I have no idea how long it takes you to put these articles together but they are in my opinion the best articles that appear on T/W.

I think that you have highlighted for months now that our present approach to buying players is unsustainable, unless we can offload a number of players. This is undoubtedly true, but the players we would like to sell don't seem to be in any hurry to move on, which is quite understandable as no other club will meet their present salary level. That's why the only players we have moved out are those on loan deals, which requires Everton to still pay the lion's share of the player's wages. The players we did eventually move out permanently were sold for little or no fee at all.

Although that FFP hasn't been mentioned much during the pandemic, I think that it will be under more scrutiny when this season finishes. Now we must be very close to falling foul of the FFP rules, and we may have to make some unpalatable decisions come the next summer window.

The problem that Ancelotti and Brands will be faced with is a very small finite amount of money they will be allowed to spend, and will only be allowed to sell before they buy. Which will make the job of improving the squad so much harder.

We are fortunate that we have enough back-four players to help us compete at the top end of the league, but we badly need more attacking players and we know they are the most expensive to buy.

So I just wonder how Moshiri gives Ancelotti and Brands the funds that they need to improve the squad, but still stays inside the FFP rules? As, apart from Kean, I don't see anyone who is not a first-team regular who would bring in the sort of money needed to improve this squad.

Kevin Molloy
7 Posted 06/01/2021 at 13:05:56
He's spent hundreds of millions, and been responsible for signing one player I think whose value will have gone up (in a way you'd notice) not down (Digne). It's not like we don't know what good transfer market dealings look like (see David Moyes's tenure).

If it wasn't for the job Ancelotti has done, we would be an example to global football in how to get things catastrophically wrong by spending obscene amounts of money to no real effect.

Notwithstanding the fact that a greater buffoon stands behind him in the shape of the current manager of Barcelona. If it was me, his feet wouldn't touch the floor.

Alan J Thompson
8 Posted 06/01/2021 at 13:41:34
Paul; I know you list them as "key loans out" but you seem to have omitted Lewis Gibson. I mention him as he was purchased from another club and there were, I believe, add-ons after either time or appearances. It may not be much but it would be included amortisation and possibly a lower wage bill.

Sorry if it is just nitpicking without affecting the overall picture.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
9 Posted 06/01/2021 at 19:57:10
Kevin #5 - I give you Mirallas and Garbutt to name but 2 and I am sure there were others.

Players who should have been quietly released at the end of their contract but we given a new contract in the vain hope that they would come good or some other desperate team would come in and buy them. We gave them new contracts. Garbutt never even pulled on an Everton shirt in those 5 years. Mirallas signed new contracts in 2015 and 2017 and played 44 games in total over those 5 years.

Perhaps his ability to not offer stupid contracts is something for which he needs our thanks that being condemned for letting others run out to move them on.

Kevin Prytherch
10 Posted 07/01/2021 at 12:37:07
Phil 9 - not disputing things like that. Just pointing out that the article is heavily skewed in Brands favour (Paul’s articles are usually fairly neutral I’ve found) and suggesting that Brands has been responsible for 75% of an inflated squad leaving in 3 years is wide of the mark.
Jerome Shields
11 Posted 07/01/2021 at 17:48:21
I think Brands has done a fair job, but has been hampered by what he inherited, and an unsuitable manager in Silva, that was imposed upon him. A lot of his job has been getting rid of deadwood, which he has been successful at.

As Paul the Esk says, he is only half-way through the job. There have been a lot of changes happening at the academy which are not reported, but are happening according to ToffeeWebbers who following the youth teams and watch them play when they can.

I expect Brands to sign a new contract.

Brian Murray
12 Posted 08/01/2021 at 06:29:02
No reason to point the finger now at Brands over past deals. It's the here and now he needs to step up and swiftly loan or get rid of the likes of Tosun and Sigurdsson etc.

Call me naive or fanciful but shouldn't he already be prepared for getting his targets in place? Not just the obvious well-documented ones like the Norwich lad!

Jerome Shields
13 Posted 08/01/2021 at 12:59:43
I notice that Paul the Esk is in favour of a new Sigurdsson contract, on financial grounds. It has occurred to me that Soggy's recent good performances have something to do with wanting a new contract. I would exercise caution, because over his contract he has often sat on his hands, performance-wise.
James Parker
14 Posted 08/01/2021 at 15:36:59
I think Brands has done a decent job and has transfer deals have been decent on the whole and added value to the squad. I think the wage bill from the walsh and koeman era has made it difficult to recoup value from signings such as Sandro.

I can see Brands signing a new contract. I don't think however he or any other DOF will have the wide encompassing remit of a DOF under Moshiri. Moshiri and Kenwright seem to be responsible for picking managers drawing up random shortlists betweem them.

Squad planning is incredibly difficult if there is no consistent style of play or formation with the managers appointed. All of the managers recruited under Moshiri have seemingly been reluctant to play academy players so I am not sure if we will get the full benefit of the academy. Board seems happy for the DOF to be on the whole a transfer negiotator and Brands has shown he is very good at that
Nicholas Ryan
15 Posted 09/01/2021 at 19:58:38
Spot on Paul.

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