We continue our review of the past Everton season, in which each individual will be recapped and rated. Next up: the director of football Marcel Brands
Marcel Brands must have wondered where to start when he first breezed through the doors of Finch Farm in June 2018 and surveyed the mess In front of him. Two years of rash, scattergun spending had resulted in a bloated, ill-balanced squad that needed both strengthening and reducing at the same time.
The Dutchman had been pursued by the Toffees for more than two years before he finally made the move from PSV in June 2018. His predecessor, Steve Walsh, looked out of his depth and needs to take his fair share of responsibility for the problems endured during the 2017-18 season.
Brands, in contrast, looks a calm, assured presence with a clear idea of the direction he wants to take the club. He was joined at the Toffees by new manager Marco Silva, who finally arrived on Merseyside after a messy and protracted chase stretching back to the previous October.
There was a feeling that this was a fresh start for everyone after the chaos of the previous season. But it was clear that all the team’s problems would not be solved in just one transfer window and a certain degree of patience was required from the fans as the rebuilding work began.
It is difficult to criticise Brands on the signings front, especially when you consider he was operating in a transfer window constricted by both the World Cup and the early Premier League deadline at the start of August.
There were plenty of eyebrows raised when £40million was splashed out on Richarlison but he responded with 14 goals and the club’s Young player of the Year award. Lucas Digne proved to be the natural successor to Leighton Baines while Bernard is a contender for free transfer signing of the year. The fact we want loan duo Kurt Zouma and Andre Gomes to return on permanent deals is also a reflection on the impact they had during their year at Goodison Park.
The only signing that can be questioned is Yerry Mina, though it would be harsh to criticise too much given he endured a stop-start year. The Colombian arrived still nursing a foot injury from the World Cup and never managed to reach full match fitness, making just 12 starts all season and spending more time on treatment table than the training pitch.
In terms of outgoings, it did prove tricky to move on some of the club’s high-earners on permanent deals. There were few complaints when Ramiro Funes Mori, Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney departed while loan moves for the likes of Yannick Bolasie, Kevin Mirallas and Sandro Ramirez also suited all parties.
The result was a leaner, more balanced squad to kick-off the season than we had at the start of the summer. And for that, Brands deserves much credit.
With 12 months to get his feet under the table and a full, clear summer to work in it is hoped Brands can continue to build on the good business he achieved last year.
At time of writing there has been plenty of rumours but few confirmed deals. However, any early business has been met with near-universal approval.
I’m glad the club used their head over their heart when releasing Phil Jagielka. He has been a fine servant to the club but now was the right time to move on. With Ashley Williams also leaving that’s a fair chunk of cash saved in wages. However, The likes of Bolasie, Mirallas and Sandro have returned to the club following their loans and will again prove difficult to shift due to their hefty contracts. It may well be that the club will have to take a significant hit in order to clear the decks.
Jonjoe Kenny’s loan to Schalke is intriguing and again looks to be the best deal for all parties. The England Under-21 international struggled to dislodge Seamus Coleman from the starting XI but needs to be playing regularly at this stage of his career. The experience of playing in a top European league will only benefit the young defender, whether his long term future is back at Everton or not.
Not perfect, but it is difficult to see what he could have done better given the circumstances.