Marcel Brands travails in his home country have been overwhelming successful as his ability to develop clubs both financially and on the pitch have seen receive an opportunity in the Premier League. It will be intriguing to analyse how he handles a bigger budget at a club who will hire it’s third manager since the beginning of last season.

Marcel Brands has earned a reputation in Holland as a technical director who overachieves at clubs he works at while creating and sustaining integral relationships in the footballing world. He exceeded expectations at RKC Waalwijk with Martin Jol as manager, won an unlikely Eredivisie title in Leicester-like fashion with AZ Alkmaar with Louis Van Gaal as manager before winning consecutive Eredivisie titles with PSV Eindhoven with Phillip Cocu as manager. Cocu proved a shrewd appointment as Brands originally sought to hire Van Gaal at PSV but failed to gain the backing of the board and hired Cocu at 43 to be PSV’s second youngest manager in history.

Marcel Brands had a distinguished career as an Eerste Divisie midfielder playing with FC Den Bosch, three spells at RKC Waalwijk, NAC Breda and with Feyenoord in the Eredivise in a career spanning nearly two decades. He retired in 1997 and immediately took up the role of commercial director at RKC Waalwijk for three years before being promoted to Technical Director. His appointment of Martin Jol saw the club develop from an Eerste Divisie club into an established Eredivisie outfit before the Dutch manager departed for Tottenham Hotspur in 2004.

He joined AZ Alkmaar in 2005 and appointed Louis Van Gaal as manager as they oversaw consecutive top three finishes in their first two seasons before finishing 11th in the third. Van Gaal sought to resign after finishing 11th but was coaxed into staying by Brands and the players as AZ would ultimately win the club’s first Eredivise title in the 2008/09 season. Van Gaal would leave for Bayern Munich at the end of the season as Brands would join PSV in 2010.

PSV would be in dire financial straits as they would have to sell their stadium and training ground to the Eindhoven Municipal Council to raise funds in 2011.  Brands made shrewd moves in the transfer market, especially in the summer of 2011 as he signed Kevin Strootman and Dries Mertens from Utrecht as well as Georginio Wijnaldum from Feyenoord for a combined fee of 18 million euros. Brands was also tasked with reorganising an underperforming academy while finding stability on the technical bench. PSV had a paucity of talents emerging from the academy as Ibrahim Afellay was a novelty in that respect while PSV only obtained a feeble 3 million euros for the Dutch International when he moved to Barcelona in January 2011.

Despite, PSV finishing 3rd and 2nd in his first two seasons with Fred Rutten, Phillip Cocu (on an interim basis) and Dick Advocaat on the technical bench as he faced increased scrutiny from PSV fans, he sought to establish a structure for PSV’s long-term success. A survey indicated that people working within PSV believed that a bleak future was in store under Brands was released to the media with PSV CEO Tiny Sanders having to defend Brands by describing him as an ‘invaluable part of PSV’s setup’ while ruling that he would like the Technical Director to remain at the club for six years at least.

Brands, an avowed workaholic who admitted to the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper that he has only taken one ten-day holiday since embarking on his directorial career, got to work by appointing Art Langeler as the Head of the Academy. Brands believed the performance of the academy was integral to the development of PSV Eindhoven as he told the same newspaper that he would miss his son, Kevin’s Eerste Divisie games to oversee Jong PSV games from the director’s box.

Brands also appointed John De Jong – a PSV midfielder who had struggled with injury – as a scout before De Jong was promoted to Chief Scout. Brands appointed Phillip Cocu as the youngest full-time head coach since Thijs Libregts who was hired in 1980 as the former Barcelona midfielder had worked on Bert Van Merwijk’s coaching staff for the 2010 World Cup and as a coach for Jong PSV. Brands continued to show faith in Cocu when the manager faced a terrible run of form in the October to December period of the season when the team went seven games without a win culminating in a 6-2 thrashing by Vitesse. The Technical Director hired Guus Hiddink to assist Cocu and his coaching staff with tactical ideas and training techniques.

Brands’ vision for the academy also had to overcome some hurdles as he had outlined Riechedly Bazoer, Andreas Pereira and Zakkaria Bakkali as talents for the future. Pereira left for Manchester United in 2011, Bazoer left for Ajax in late 2012 and only Bakkali would play for the first team but stalled on a new contract with a year left on his deal. Negotiations with the Belgian’s representatives proved difficult and the youngster was demoted to the youth team to never play for PSV again. However, PSV’s academy has become a production line for talent as Memphis Depay, Joshua Brenet, Jeroen Zoet, Jorrit Hendrix and Steven Bergwijn as well as others have all been integral components of title-winning teams.

Under Phillip Cocu, in Brands’ last four years at the club, PSV have embarked on a period of success as they have won three of the last four Eredivsie titles, 1 KNVB Beker as well as making it to the Last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. The club are financially healthy as they managed to buy their stadium and training ground back from the Municipal Council. Even though Phillips only sponsor their stadium and are not their main sponsor, Brands’ dealings in the transfer market have proved fruitful for the club. Brands has continuously put Cocu in the best position to succeed which is proven by the elite level of know-how on the coaching staff. The goalkeeping coach is former Barcelona goalkeeper, Ruud Hesp, attacker’s coach was legendary Belgian striker Luc Nilis, winger’s coach is Boudewijn Zenden while Ruud Van Nistelrooy works with the strikers a few times a week while working with Jong PSV. Brands’ ability to work with managers has been a staple of his career and will certainly continue at Everton.

“That he realizes that the trainer is the most important is a great strength for Marcel,” said PSV General Manager Toon Gerbrands to Voetbal International Pro a few weeks ago. “With him, the capital is on the field and the trainer has to work successfully with it. Marcel creates all the preconditions for this. He ensures that the staff, the selection, the scouting device, the training and the accommodation are in order. What he really is good at is in scouting and fitting a player into a bigger picture. Does he fit PSV? Can the current trainer work with him? Is the selection still in balance and does he fit the system? Marcel is a master in that.”

It is intriguing to notice the difference in recruitment approaches between Brands and his predecessor Steve Walsh as the latter leans more to an analytical point of view. Brands prefers to invest in personalities while frequently signing players that he has worked with before as one could call him more old-fashioned. However, Brands does do extensive research on his recruits as he admitted to following PSV centre-back Daniel Schwaab for five years before signing him in a cut-price deal when Stuttgart got relegated in 2016. Everton’s new Director of Football is also resolute in negotiations as there is a story of him tracking a young player in South America on the brink of an expired deal, only for the player’s club to inform PSV that they would still have to pay a transfer fee. Brands dropped negotiations but eventually signed the youngster, only paying a development fee to the club rather than a transfer which was meagre compared to the fee the South American club were asking for.

Brands’ hard work still resonates at AZ Alkmaar as the club opened an improved training base where the architectural inspiration was accrued from Louis Van Gaal, Brands, Toon Gerbrands and Dick Scheringa taking an excursion to Glasgow to view Rangers’ training ground. His hard work will continue to resonate at PSV as they continue to make improvements to their De Herdgang training base, the signings of Maxi Romero and Donyell Malen while even in his final week at PSV, Brands was hard at work extending the contracts of two youngsters. Brands has always shown that sort of loyalty in his career as he turned down a big money move to Japan to take up his first directorial role at Waalwijk while he also insisted in staying until September 1st before moving to AZ in order to leave the club in the best position possible.

Brands will have to manage a budget probably higher than PSV, AZ Alkmaar and RKC Waalwijk’s budgets combined while dealing with the fallout of last year with a new manager. Brands also may not receive the patience he once had in the Eredivisie while he also may not be able to extend the patience to a manager that he gave to Cocu. Toon Gerbrands who Marcel Brands worked with at AZ and PSV described the structure that he set as ‘worth its weight in gold’ to Voetbal International a few weeks ago. He stayed 8 years and 2 months at PSV as he proved Tiny Sanders right and has yet to steer a club to the wrong path which has prepared him well for his first quest for success outside his home country.

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)