Everton find themselves in turmoil right now.
The Toffees have already been deducted 10 points this season and having been found to breach profitability and sustainability rules, they could face yet another sanction. Another points deduction could mean relegation is a real possibility.
Even if they manage to avoid a stint in the Championship, player sales would have to be on the agenda and their most prized asset right now is centre-back Jarrad Branthwaite. The 21-year-old caught the eye while on loan in Holland last season with PSV Eindhoven. He’s carried his impressive form over into the Premier League and some of the biggest clubs across Europe are now reportedly keeping tabs on him.
Prior to signing Radu Dragusin, Spurs had Branthwaite on their radar as they looked for defensive reinforcements. Merseyside neighbours Liverpool reportedly like the ball-playing centre-back and the Reds had scouts in attendance during his time with PSV. A deal would be difficult due to the rivalry between the two clubs but transfers have happened in the past and they’ll likely happen again in the future.
Real Madrid are believed to weighing up a move for the 6ft5 defender with manager Carlo Ancelotti being familiar with the youngster having managed him during his time at Goodison Park.
Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle United are also reportedly in the race to sign the England Under-21 international. Per reports, the Red Devils want to kickstart the Sir Jim Ratcliffe revolution with a summer rebuild and Branthwaite tops their wishlist. The fact club legend Ruud van Nistelrooy, who managed the impressive centre-back last season, speaks so favourably about him no doubt plays a part in their thinking. The former United forward said: “He is good on the ball, can play on the right or left of the centre because he is two-footed, has height and speed – he is a very complete defender.”
So just why is Branthwaite so highly sought-after?
The former Carlisle United defender is a bit of a chameleon. What I mean by that is he adapts to the team he’s playing in without there being a visible drop-off in performances or output.
For example, during his time with PSV last season, he averaged 59 passes on a per 90 basis and he found a teammate 87% of the time. He attempted more long passes in Holland and had a better success rate. The Dutch giants are one of the best teams in the league, so Branthwaite had to adapt to seeing more of the ball and doing more with it. He did just that, and to a high level.
This season, when turning out for Everton in the Premier League, he’s averaging just 38 passes per 90 with a success rate of 79%. This drop-off can be explained away by the fact the Toffees rank 18th in the English top-flight this term for possession (38.8%). He’s not as involved, purely because he’s playing for a team that doesn’t control matches. Yet he’s still managing to impress and that is a sign of a real talent.
What makes Branthwaite so useful is that he can use either foot. In fact, many felt he was right-footed until he confirmed otherwise in an interview.
“I am left-footed, but I’ve got a five-star weak foot on the new FIFA!. If I’m hitting a long pass, I’ll go with my left; short passes with my right.”
When he’s in possession, there’s always going to be a pass on. He is arguably the definition of press-resistant due to his ability to switch things up on the ball.
Branthwaite was much more expressive on the ball with PSV, attempting more carries and covering a greater distance. Again though, that is very much tied to the team he was part of. But it does highlight that he’d be more than adept in a ball-dominant side and not just one looking to play on the break, like Everton.
On the ball he’s brilliant, without it he’s just as impressive.
The 21-year-old, who signed a new deal recently to extend his stay at Goodison Park until 2027, has tackled 81% of the dribblers he’s faced this season in the Premier League. He’s also involving himself in almost four aerial duels per 90, winning 68% of those. So, he’s fairly dominant in the air, on the ground and, when tasked with it, on the ball.
The Everton defender ticks all of the boxes for a modern-day centre-back and it is easy to see exactly why so many top teams are ready to pounce.