Inside story of Marcel Brands exit and who controls transfers now after Everton power struggle

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Marcel Brands has carried the can for not only his mistakes, but other people’s too.

Let’s get that straight.

The director of football had to accept some of the responsibility, but was not solely to blame for an imbalanced squad, and a team going backwards.

Sadly for Brands, many of the other architects of the mess are no longer around to share the blame. He was left exposed.

For Farhad Moshiri, that means paying with his job and, on Sunday night, Everton and Brands were thrashing out the terms of his exit.

Was it fair that he has been forced out? No. But given the alarming form of the team and the fan unrest, blood letting was expected by Everton and Brands is the one who is to go.

In the simmering power struggle between Brands and Rafa Benitez, there appeared only one winner.

And given Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Steve Walsh, Sam Allardyce and others have already left the club, he was the last of the longer-serving people in the football department, who have worked in the Moshiri era.

Benitez has been at the club for less than six months.

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At close to £2m a year, at least before he agreed to a pay cut during the height of the pandemic, the Blues hierarchy may say Brands wasn’t offering value for money.

It is understood he retained the support of some in the boardroom, right up until the wheels began turning on his departure yesterday, but he’s going and Benitez, for the time being at least, will take control of transfers.

Moshiri has also made mistakes and has changed managers so frequently that Brands worked with three permanent bosses – and one caretaker – in as many years in the job, but the majority shareholder is the man, ultimately, who makes the decisions.

Of the two most high-profile footballing people at the club, one was always going to be walking a tightrope given the team’s run of form.

Moshiri’s public backing of Benitez via talkSPORT on Thursday put the spotlight firmly on Brands. Four days after being berated by an irate supporter following the defeat to Liverpool, his exit was being drawn up.

There was silence from Brands on Sunday afternoon, as the news first broke.

That was in keeping with the lack of public speaking from the Dutchman who had not done an interview with the English media, about Everton matters, in almost three years, when he sat down with the ECHO in December 2018.

The two-part interview was well-received and fans had been keen to hear from him again, but it never happened.

He last addressed an Everton audience via a pre-recorded segment at last year’s General Meeting. Tellingly, he gave the sincere impression that there would be no signings in that window. On deadline day, Josh King joined the club.

When Benitez was appointed, Brands was not quoted on the club’s official statement. It was obvious why.

And it is believed the former PSV Eindhoven sporting director had become increasingly reluctant to speak publicly about decisions and a footballing strategy that were, often, being taken out of his hands and not in line with how he wanted to run the club.

But after being confronted by that angry supporter in the Main Stand in midweek, he did say: “Is it only the players?”.

Earlier on Sunday, Everton were playing down the idea that Brands was blaming Benitez for the defeat and run of form. Beyond that, they offered no further clarity.

Brands had not wanted Ancelotti as manager, nor had he been in favour of appointing Benitez. He had not wanted Silva sacked, either, despite having little say in his arrival.

He was in a perilous position from the summer. If he had got his way, then Everton would have appointed a manager such as Graham Potter, but Moshiri went for Benitez, who came with a focus on shaking the club up from top to bottom and with a reputation as hands-on when it came to transfers.

The decision to oust Danny Donachie should have, theoretically, been Brands’ to make, given his job remit, but it’s clear Benitez made that call.

The Spaniard also drove the summer signings and pushed back on a number of Brands’ suggestions, Denzel Dumfries being the most high-profile of them.

Moshiri was regularly being advised to pull the trigger on Brands by those around him, despite having handed him a new deal in April, but the owner had decided not to act. Until now at least.

That new contract was not a cut and dried process either, with Moshiri harbouring some reservations – at this point last year – about Brands’ performance.

But, in the end, the Dutchman offered stability and continuity to football operations that would be missing, once again, in the summer, when Ancelotti walked out and left chaos in his wake.

Brands can point to the success of signing Lucas Digne for £18m from Barcelona, for example, as showing his capabilities in the market.

Abdoulaye Doucoure is another who was on Brands’ list for a couple of seasons before he was able to move in on him in 2020.

Ben Godfrey, too, is another player credited with being the director of football’s call. Those three players have been good for Everton, while the hope is Jarrad Branthwaite, who is in line for a new deal, can be a centre-back for the future.

Brands had long been a fan of Richarlison but when Silva pushed for the Brazilian, he initially felt the club were paying over the odds.

Brands’ critics say he has wasted time and money on pursuing Moise Kean, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Fabian Delph.

Yerry Mina has started less than half of the club’s league games since signing, as the club’s most expensive defender, in 2018.

Andre Gomes, albeit with a shocking ankle injury playing its part, has not been the same player after the club spent £22m on him to make his loan a permanent move.

Everton, too, are still searching for a right-back to replace Seamus Coleman, three-and-a-half-years on from his appointment. The failure to re-sign Kurt Zouma in the summer of 2019 is also acknowledged as a mistake.

But Brands reorganised the scouting structure and was hoping to see changes he made to the Academy system deliver results. If they do, he will not be around to see them.

He also believed in the potential of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and ignored calls to sign a ready-made striker, at cost, because it would harm his development. He, too, has been a big supporter of Anthony Gordon.

There are, tonight, question marks over the future of Gretar Steinsson, the man Brands initially brought in as chief European scout three years ago this week, but who now holds the role of Head of Recruitment and Development.

Brands was under constant pressure to help ease the club’s financial fair play concerns and reduce an out of control wage bill.

Some at the club felt he was ‘too slow’ and wasn’t doing enough in offloading unwanted players. But, in Brands’ defence, such was the plummeting stock of many of those fringe players, there was not always a market in which to sell them. The impact of Covid-19 also worked against him. As did the club’s decision to sanction the £200,000-a-week wages of James Rodriguez, at Ancelotti’s request.

He was also criticised for allowing Thierry Small to leave the club in the summer but those with knowledge of the negotiations say the teenager’s wage demands meant Brands was in a no-win situation.

Rarely will Brands have ever felt he had matters under complete control. Silva already had one foot in the door as manager when Brands was appointed, despite the director of football supposedly having the final say on who was to replace Sam Allardyce. In reality, the decision had already been made with Silva waiting in the wings.

The signing of Alex Iwobi, it must also be stressed, was not on Brands. The director of football was certain the idea of signing the Arsenal man, at such a price at that late in the window, would quickly die down, but Moshiri pressed on with the signing. Everton paid an initial £28m for Iwobi who was on a yacht off the coast of Dubai when the call came in.

Brands will have often felt he was swimming against the tide at Goodison.

Set on reducing spiralling costs, he was aghast to learn that the club had officially enquired about signing Wilfried Zaha in 2019, when there was no way they could afford him. Or having repeatedly insisted that there was only room in the budget to add a defender on loan in October last year, Moshiri decided the cash was, in fact, there all along to sign Godfrey on a permanent deal.

Godfrey has been a good signing but it was a situation indicative of the shifting sands on which Brands often stood.

Without question, the transfers in which his fingerprints are on, leaves him with a mixed record. But he is also paying the price for the transfers that had nothing to do with him or the managerial changes which moved, in his eyes, the goalposts.

What will Brands’ exit change? Immediately, nothing. The squad still desperately needs January to be improved and, at least, a full summer window for a greater revamp.

On the pitch, Brands leaving will not alter the challenge in front of them or manager Benitez: stopping the rot of an eight-match winless run.

You can’t imagine it will appease supporters who are planning on a walk-out protest in the 27th minute of the match with Arsenal on Monday night, either, but Moshiri will hope it is seen as an acknowledgement that changes have to be made.

Fairly or not, the axe has fallen on Brands.

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