Director of Football Marcel Brands leaves Everton
Written by Simon Austin — December 6, 2021
EVERTON Director of Football Marcel Brands has left the club after three-and-a-half years.
The club released a short statement this morning confirming the news. “Everton Football Club can confirm that Marcel Brands has left his post as Director of Football," the statement read.
“The Owner and Directors would like to thank Marcel for the service he has given to the club over the past three and a half years and wish him well for his future.
“A strategic review of the football structure will now take place which will inform the best model for the club to proceed with in the long-term. In the meantime, the Owner and Board of Directors will continue to provide our manager, Rafa Benitez, with their full support.”
Brands signed a contract extension to 2024 as recently as April, but has agreed a package to leave immediately. The decision comes in the midst of a toxic atmosphere at Goodison Park, with the Toffees lying 16th in the Premier League and manager Rafa Benitez pushing for greater control of recruitment.
Following Everton’s 4-1 defeat by city rivals Liverpool last Wednesday, a supporter was filmed berating Brands as he exited the stand, with the Dutchman responding “is it only the players?”
Brands arrived with a stellar reputation built during eight years as Technical Director at PSV Eindhoven. On his watch the club won the Eredevisie in 2014/15 and 2015/16 and their Academy gained a global reputation for excellence, with Memphis Depay and Andreas Pereira among the graduates.
However, his time at Goodison has not been a success, when measured on most metrics. When he arrived at Everton, the club had just finished 8th in the Premier League under Sam Allardyce, who was subsequently sacked.
Subsequent league finishes were 8th in 2018/19 (under Marco Silva), 12th in 2019/20 (under Silva and then Carlo Ancelotti) and 10th last season (under Ancelotti).
Transfer spending has been huge and has had mixed success. At the end of the January transfer window, the CIES Football Observatory assessed spending in the top five European leagues over the previous 10 windows and Everton were sixth, ahead of Chelsea, AC Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich.
Only Manchester City, Manchester United, Barcelona, PSG and Inter Milan had a higher net spend. Brands was notionally responsible for spending from the January 2019 window onwards (five of the 10 windows), but oversaw some massive spending, on the likes of Richarlison (reported £40m), Yerry Mina (£27m), Alex Iwobi (potentially rising to £34m) and Andre Gomes (£22m).
The Dutchman has emphasised the importance of youth development in his rare public pronouncements. As mentioned above, this was something he had gained a reputation for at PSV.
Shortly after arriving at Everton, Brands said: “The youth Academy for a club is very important for me when I am going to work with a club. That was also one of the goals I had when I came to PSV and must also be one of the goals I have in Everton.
“The thought behind it has to be a long term thing. We don’t want to do things only with short-term ideas. It’s important we now find a structure for the long term.
“What people around the club will see is new signings, but behind the scenes we have to do a lot of work with other things.”
However, Everton’s record on that front during his time at the club is poor, at least in terms of the passage of players from Academy to first team. This season, Everton are fourth lowest in the Premier League for club-trained players (defined as players who have been with the club for at least three seasons between the ages of 15 and 21 to the end of November 2021) according to the CIES Football Observatory.
Only 4.8% of their minutes have gone to club-trained players - compared to 26.8% at Chelsea, who are top. Only Watford, Brentford and Wolves have worse records.
So, by most measures, Brands’ time at Everton has been a failure. Which leads to the big question: was he fully responsible? Or, to put it another way, did he have full control of the football department? To these questions, the answer has to be no.
Majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri has overruled Brands on several signings and managerial appointments. The Dutchman was reluctant to sack Marco Silva and also against the appointment of Benitez.
Of course, the owner has the final say on matters at most if not all clubs, but has there been a clear strategy and vision when it comes to player and staff recruitment?
Again, the answer would seem to be no. If, as Brands has said, the Academy was paramount, then why were pathways blocked by signings and why are the club-trained stats so poor (over the course of several seasons)?
There has also been a strong influence from agents - notably Kia Joorabchian - on Moshiri. Joorabchian has spoken publicly about his role in the signing of James Rodriguez and was also reported to have been pivotal in the appointment of Benitez.
Agents, inevitably, will tend not to be concerned with player pathways from the Academy - unless they involve one of their clients. Moshiri has previously said that his objective for the club is: "We always want to be top of the table, we want to be consistent, we want to do well."
Hopefully the strategy review will come up with the best structure, people and values in order to deliver that, after his six years as owner of the club.