It's Time to Talk about Marcel Brands

Martin O'Connor 02/01/2021 9comments  |  Jump to last
“You ask me would I like to leave or would I like to play, I think I’ll stay, heh heh I think I’ll stay” – Merle Haggard: I Think I’ll Stay

As we enter a New Year with the Toffees well placed in the Premier League table (hopefully it will last but I have my doubts), thoughts will inevitably focus on the January transfer window: Do the Blues need to strengthen any positions? As well as the perennial disposal of the underperforming deadwood which we still have quite a number of. But, while we are in this yellow tie month, one thing which now has become very urgent, and which Everton need to sort out very quickly, is the position of Director of Football, Marcel Brands, who is in the last 6 months of his contract.

Do the club offer Brands a new contract? Or allow him to leave in the Summer? Rumours are he is on the candidate list for Director of Football at Manchester United (but, if United are actually serious about getting a DoF this time, how much actual power they would have is questionable; it's been a running joke with them for god knows how long). But, be that as it may, Everton have a decision to make on Marcel Brands and need to do this as soon as possible. This being the case, how has Brands performed at the Blues since he came to the club in the Summer of 2018?

Brands, when he joined Evertn, had a daunting job in trying to trim down an overpaid, bloated underperforming squad. Now, 2½ years later, we still have some of these dead weights hanging around the club: Bolasie, Besic, Tosun, Pennington (just joined Shrewsbury Town on loan till the end of the season) to name but a few. At the same time, the number of these underperformers which Brands has managed to dispose of is quite a long one: Lookman, Vlasic (unlucky with us in my opinion), Walcott (loan to Southampton till the end of this season, when his contract will be up), Dowell, Niasse, Garbutt, Schneiderlin, to name but a few.

Good money was brought in for Lookman and for the much-missed (not a deadweight) Gana, while we lost nothing on the deal for Vlasic when he moved to CSKA Moscow. But it has to be said that a number of players were released after their contracts finally ran out and a very big proportion of the dead weights were moved out on loan and continually turned back up at Finch Farm when their loans either ended or were cut short.

Some of them, such as the above-mentioned Bolasie, Besic and Pennington are still on the Club's books. It was a massive task Brands faced when he came to the club in moving such overpaid dross on, and he has done, in my opinion, an average job. Yes, long contracts and stupid wages for very average players made his job hard, but I think that more should have been done to move on players such as Schneiderlin and the still-with-us Tosun earlier, while the 'out today, back tomorrow, loan moves for players such as Besic has just become tiresome to read about. Brands gets a solid C from me for his job in moving players out. So what about the incomings?

Brands's first season at Everton saw Richarlison brought in from Watford – a good piece of business and, sing as much as we might, it was not for £50 million. Sigurdsson is still our highest transfer fee.

Raids on Barcelona with the acquisitions of Digne, Mina, and Gomes (who was first a loan), all for under £30 million each, can also be seen as good business in the moves of Digne (turned out better than I thought, although I still think he is weak in the air) and Mina. Although Yerry still has his wayward days, I think we now have a solid Premier League centre-back.

Gomes is another story. He was injured when he joined and flattered to deceive when on the pitch, as well as continually having niggling injuries, before the good friend Son decided to put him out of action for a large part of last season. Has Gomes justified the price we paid for him? Not in my opinion, and he has continued to have niggling injuries since returning from Son’s so-called tackle.

Bringing players with questionable fitness records to the club has been a trait of Brands since he joined the club: Delph, anyone? A disaster signing from start to finish. Did we ever need such an average player in the first place? No, we never did. Even Yerry Mina does not have a stellar fitness record.

Then we have the case of Jean-Philippe Gbamin: Will he ever be fit to show us the player we thought we were getting? That is an open question. James Rodriguez and Allan also have questionable fitness records, especially Rodriguez. Alex Iwobi we definitely paid over the odds for, although he is starting to show some form over the last few months.

Abdoulaye Doucouré is yet to hit the best form he showed at Watford but seems a solid enough signing. Ben Godfrey certainly seems to be proving an astute piece of business while the signings of youngsters Jarred Branthwaite and Niels Nkounkou also fall into the 'good business' category. Assessing these incomings, Brands is probably in credit around the B- mark.

With the incoming, though, one must also look at Brands's stated aim at the club to sign players aged 25 or under who could grow together for a number of what is hoped to be successful seasons at the club, or moved on for a profit. In his first four transfer windows, Brands was true to his word with the incomings, with the exception of the supposed footballer Delph. But last Summer, he has (apart from Godfrey and Nkounkou) seen this idea torn to shreds.
Yes, all three of Rodriguez, Allan and Doucouré were brought in at reasonable prices. But Rodriguez and Allan were both 29 when signed (Allan is 30 on 8 January), while Doucouré turned 28 on the first day of 2021 (he must have really enjoyed that West Ham birthday game!!!). These signings, along with loan goalkeeper Robin Olsen, show that the plan for signing players 25 or under (which I think was the right policy), has been dumped for a 'success today' future under Carlo Ancelotti.

It can also be questioned: Were these the right players to sign? Certainly we needed some steel in midfield and Allan has, when fit, provided that and been very impressive. It is questionable that we needed two players in similar vein with the signing of Doucouré (although he seems to have been on our radar since he was in nappies).

James Rodriguez will miss half a season, give you some great games, go missing in others, and will not put much, if any, effort in defensively. I admit I am not the biggest fan of his signing, but I do wonder how much of a fan Brands was of any of these signings, or did he go out and get them? It is part of his job but it is actually Carlo Ancelotti who now calls all the shots on signings.

Finally, we move on to the Academy. Under our Director of Football, the plan seemed to be to streamline all age groups, getting them to play to one idea and plan, recruit young players from around the world who could be brought through the Under-23s, along with bringing through homegrown talent. If these players did not make the breakthrough to the first team, then we could sell them on for handsome profit.

In reality, the Everton pathway — Everton give young players a chance – is a massive myth, which the club is very good at propagating. Yes, we all know that, at any club, only one or two of any generation may actually breakthrough into the first team but under David Unsworth, Everton do nothing but produce players for lower league teams.

Unsworth’s record of actually producing quality players for the first team is abysmal. The whole Under-23 set-up: Unsworth, Jeffers, Ebbrell – and now we can add Baines to the list – is nothing more than an old boys club. Under Brands, we have not sorted any of this mess out and have in fact given David Unsworth more power, making him some sort of Czar over all age groups. I would actually fail Brands on the Academy.

So, all-in-all, what do we make of Director of Football Marcel Brands and his time at the club? After nearly 3 years, he is still trying to get rid of some of the deadwood he inherited; not a great plus point, but it was a mammoth task. Actually getting an Academy that functions and is on the way to producing at least a gem every now and then, I would say he has totally failed at, and has given more power to the main impediment to this David Unsworth and his cronies. (See Blocked Pathway).

Finally, we have his vision, which he has stated since his arrival at the club of producing players from the Academy and the signing of players 25 and under. On this final point, he has been mainly true to his word until laast Summer, when the signings went completely in reverse.

Was Brands totally on board with these signings? Or has he lost some of his power base to Carlo Ancelotti? The manager is here to try and do things today and not tomorrow – something which Moshiri seems to have put his support and wallet behind.

If this is the case, then – no matter the average job Brands has done overall – the job description he was brought to the club for has now changed, which may be why we are now close to the end of his contract with no offer of a new one to date.

Is he himself thinking it might be the right time to move on? Weighed against this is the reality that Brands is handsomely paid (not on the scale of Carlo, it has to be said) and has also maneuvered himself onto the Board of Directors at the club, not something to be given up lightly.

So the club needs to make a decision on our Director of Football pretty quickly; does he deserve a new contract? And is he the right person to go forward with Carlo's and Moshiri’s new 'jam today' philosophy?

If it is decided that Brands is not the man to go forward with this new vision, then it is hoped that the club are sounding out new candidates now. Just out of interest, the best Director of Football / Technical Director around, in the shape of Luís Campos, has left Lille. I do not see him coming to us, but any Club with ambition would be sounding him out.

Even in the unlikely scenario that we thought we could get him, he is someone who works in the younger market, something which seems to have been put on the back burner at Everton. But, one way or another, we need to talk about Marcel Brands.

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Reader Comments (9)

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Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
1 Posted 02/01/2021 at 16:37:38
Sorry, Martin, but it is not your decision and this smacks of playing too much FIFA 2020 and not the real world of negotiations and business.

You are not the only one, but people complaining about Brands not being able to get rid of players who they consider not good enough seem to think that he just has to snap his fingers and it is done. I don't recall any "deadwood" being given a new contract on his watch like we have in the past with players such as Garbutt, Mirallas, and Pennington.

So for that alone he deserves an A+. And why in the past did they get contracts? Because someone took a calculated decision that player A was at the end of their contract and "he may come good" (hope more than realism) plus we may be able to sell him for more than we are going to have to pay him for the life of the new contract (hope more than realism). Perhaps Marcel Brands is more realism than hope.

Add to this, the Premier League is about the most overpaid salary league in the world. I would be fairly sure that not one reader or contributor on ToffeeWeb would take the offer of a lower paid job when they could sit around and collect their full wages for a few more years and then try to get a signing on fee. Do we remember Ross Barkley? No, I am going to turn down a move today, 31st August, because I will get more if I leave in January or June of next year.

Being able to move players on requires both the player to agree (as advised by their agent) and a club who wants them. Think Bolasie. The only way Brands could move some of the people was for us to subsidise the move.

It is well known that Southampton are only paying 50% of Walcott's wages. Should we pay 100% of Tosun's wages to enable Sam to take him to West Brom? Or at least ask them to pay 10%? Come next window, Brands tries to offload a player on loan and what chance all other clubs have a sudden fit of amnesia and don't remember that Everton were so desperate to get rid of players at any price. Probably not. So Lössl at 50% salary is not a hope. "We will take him if we pay 10% of his salary. Is that a deal Mr Brands?"

What is clear is that, should Martin have been around in the early 80s, we would never have signed Peter Reid or Andy Gray. We should never buy a player with a poor injury record in the hope that they may come good.

And even more stupid, as with Danny Williamson and JP Gbamin, is to never sign a player who will get seriously injured in the next 6 months after they have signed. Brands should have known that Gbamin would end up with that freak injury 15 days later and turned down the chance to sign him.

The role of DOF does seem a little confused to most of us, and I probably include myself in that list.

Brands: "Hey Carlo, I have signed you another goalkeeper, he's really good."
Ancelotti: "Marcel, I have 4 already. I need a back up striker."
Brands: Oh.

I think his role is twofold. And how many in senior management only have one role? The club should not be about "today only" or "tomorrow only". As with any business, it is about "both and" not "either or". His role is probably to identify young upcoming talent and bring them into the club (and correctly as Martin points out – to sell on for a profit or replace players retiring/leaving) and secondly to negotiate the transfers of the players for the first XI as identified by the manager. Could we really envisage Marcel saying - I don't agree with getting James Rodriguez. "I understand the commercial reasons and the money we can earn in Columbia but sorry Mr Finance and I understand he will play some blinding passes and score some amazing goals but there is this 23-year-old guy from Luxembourg who plays in the French 2nd division".

I think maybe the world has changed, the club has changed, and that is why we now have 3 players in their late 20s. We now have a world renowned manager who can attract players who would never have come here under Marco Silva. The club was not attractive and neither was the management team.

Were our fans happy to see us plod along for another 2-3 years while these new rising stars came through, missing out on the money from Europe. Of course we were. Not. So let us seize the chance.

Use the name of Carlo Ancelotti. Bring in some startdust. Make the leap to where we were 10 years ago, and as a springboard to where we were 35 years ago. And at the same time spot the odd young gem like Godfrey, Branthwaite and Nkounkou. So have we "changed policy"? No, I think we have made it more flexible, more adaptable and suited to the world in which we live.

Now if only he could find a second striker aged 22 who would score 20+ goals a season in the Premier League based on minimal service for about £5m. Oh and a silky playmaker with a range of passing and vision but at the same time to tackle and track back. Come on Marcel. We know you can do it.

Thomas Richards
2 Posted 02/01/2021 at 16:59:24

Re the deadwood.

When you give players a contract it works both ways. If they want to sit on the contracted big wages, they will. You can't force them out

Bobby Mallon
3 Posted 02/01/2021 at 17:15:26
Phil @1

Brands knew Gbamin had had the same injury before we signed him so it is his fault we got him. The same goes for Delph, his injury record was a mile long, so why get him for fuck's sake? I understand Rodriguez, Allan and Doucouré as they are quality.

On the signing of players 25 and below, that's fine so long as the manager likes them and plays them. This is not happening with Carlo as he obviously doesn't think Nkounkou, Gordon, Branthwaite or Simms are good enough.

So, for me, the DOF should only be here to thrash transfers out. It should be the manager and his coaches who find the players he wants for our club.

John Williams
4 Posted 02/01/2021 at 18:09:01
I think any D of F would have trouble getting rid of the likes of Besic and Bolasie so I wouldn't criticise Brands too much there. Though I would like to think he has suitors for Bernard and Tosun lined up this window.

Brands stated he wanted to bring in only one or two players each season to improve the squad and be under 25. Well that went right out the window last Summer didn't it. Clearly at least two signings were Ancelotti buys.

So the question is are they working in tandem, one buys for the here and now and the other for the future and are they both happy with this strategy going forward? If not and Brands feels he's being undermined then he leave in the Summer.

Regarding his signings I think he's done reasonably well and Nkounkou, Branthwaite and Godfrey all look decent prospects for the future though thought there'd have been a few more in other areas of the pitch.

The one player I really thought he'd made a big mistake with is Iwobi. He looked awful last season but now seems to be improving. I'd like to see Iwobi getting a run of games playing behind Calvert-Lewin so for me we need a minimum Right Winger this January. None of this shite its not a good time to buy. Get Digne and Allan back playing well with some quality additions down both wings and we could really stay in the mix in this strange season.

So come on, Mr Brands, get your finger out and wheel and deal.
Alan J Thompson
5 Posted 03/01/2021 at 05:26:19
Director of Football, Manager, Chairman, Majority Shareholder – I often wonder who has the most input and whose word carries more weight, or even if it is some sort of democratic system or a chain of command with inbuilt responsibility levels.

While I think on-field performance can be laid at the door of one man (and therefore his staff), the administrative side is far more complicated even if the "higher" levels are not much more than a rubber stamp up to a (financial?) level or a refusal or downright interference. Hiring and firing of one administrator might not be a cure-all.

Jason Wilkinson
6 Posted 03/01/2021 at 06:18:12
I think you will find that Marcel Brands is very highly regarded throughout continental Europe. He has managed to bring some very good young players to the club. What happens to them after they sign is down to how they are coached and managed.

Moise Kean is still an Everton player. If he doesn't come back into the fold, I would suggest we will make a very handsome profit. As others have said, How do you shift players when they turn down a move? Would you leave your job to work for an inferior company on less wages?

Then there is the crocks. All clubs take a punt on a player with injuries in their history. No club is immune to a bad buy. Arguably Man Utd have been the worst culprits in the Premier League for this. They have brought in some really expensive flops. The difference is they have the money to buy their way out of trouble. They rarely make any sell-on profit from a sale. They have overpaid for so many I've lost count.

Brands has a job to do. He has shareholders to please, a board of directors to answer to, and a management team to satisfy. One wants to see the most profit. One wants the best value, and the other wants the best quality. It is not his job to please the supporters. That is purely down to the coaching and management staff.

Is he getting value for money? I would say Yes. A-.

Are the coaching staff happy with the acquisitions? I would say reasonably. B.

Will his strategy bring value? I would say so far he hasn't brought a terrible player to the club but it will take time to answer this one. B+.

Should we offer a new contract? Unless there are better candidates with even stronger connections to European clubs, then 100% Yes.

We need a top level negotiator to attract players to the club. We were run like a corner shop for nearly 20 years while the other clubs who wanted the Premier League became multi-national corporations. It will take time, some success and a lot of hard graft by the likes of Mr Brands to get us back to the top table.

Eric Myles
7 Posted 03/01/2021 at 08:18:50
Martin, you credit Brands with the signings of Richarlison and Doucouré but I suspect they were at the request of their former manager, Marco Silva. Likewise, the Allan and Rodriguez picks of Carlo.

If the DoF buys players that the manager doesn't want / like / sanction, will the manager actually play them?

Having said that, who really wanted / liked / sanctioned the likes of Iwobi and Walcott?

I think the DoF's role is to work with the manager to source 'off the radar' players that might suit the team ethic, then to present them to the manager for review, and also to negotiate with the manager's direct picks.

So it's more an administrative job so the manager doesn't really have to manage, he can focus on the coaching and on-field results side of the business.

Mike Oates
8 Posted 03/01/2021 at 17:13:49
Brands is caught between Moshiri and Kenwright. Moshiri wants quick success and has given Ancelotti the green light to deliver that, and to Ancelotti, that means buying experience ie 27-30-year olds.

Forget this buying kids cheaply business, let Brands do that, quick look see if player any good – No, so he won't use him. But it's Ancellloti's choice to use or not.

Godfrey is experienced already and I suspect falls between both experienced and youth.

Re the Academy - Brands cant get in at all because Kenwright has taken responsibility there and gives the management to his ex Everton cronies – Unsworth, Ebbrell, Baines and Baines. Output from that lot over last 4-5 years: Tom Davies, a good squad player at best.

It's a complete myth as the author said – Everton do not produce or give kids a chance from the Academy. Our successful lads in the team at the moment are Holgate, and Calvert-Lewin, both bought in at ~17 years old and joining them this year Branthwaite and Nkounkou, again, both bought in. Will Gordon develop, we don't know but clearly not an Ancelotti favourite.

So, from thousands of kids in the last 6 to 8 years, we've had Tom Davies, what an exceptional failure!! The whole Academy needs a wholesale clearout by Brands but Moshiri needs to move Kenwright out to let Brands organise that part of the club. Whilst we dill- dally, we see:
Man Utd - Rashford, Greenwood, McTominay, Williams
Liverpool – Alexander-Arnold, Jones, Phillips, Williams
Chelsea – Mount, Abraham, James, Hudson-Odoi, Gilmour, Loftus-Cheek
Man City – Foden only (Guardiola doesn't belive you can bring youth into a successful team)
Arsenal – list is too long

Brands might as well leave!!!

Nicholas Ryan
9 Posted 09/01/2021 at 19:50:11
Is Brands the man? - Yes.

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