Jarrad Branthwaite's next move clear as Everton know something England and Man Utd don't

Jarrad Branthwaite of Everton
-Credit: (Image: James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)

Evertonians know the true value of Jarrad Branthwaite, even if others don’t and it seems you can add Gareth Southgate to a list that includes Manchester United.

Indeed, it was blindingly obvious to anyone who watched Branthwaite on a regular basis this season just what an exciting prospect he is, with a gargantuan talent to match his colossal frame. When 2023/24 kicked off, we didn’t even know whether the lad who spent the previous year on loan at PSV Eindhoven was even going to cut it in the Premier League but from the moment that he came into the side for the third fixture of the fledgling campaign, a star was born.

Since last August, a constant stream of the biggest and baddest strikers in world football’s toughest domestic division have been regularly swatted aside by Sean Dyche’s man mountain at the back but as well as having all the physical attributes to become one of the global game’s leading centre-backs, ‘The Carlisle Kaiser’ is also imperious in possession.

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Marcel Brands, the man who brought Branthwaite to Goodison Park after just a clutch of appearances for his home city club as a teenager, told the ECHO in an exclusive interview published last month: “To be honest, I have never had any doubts about him. In principle he has everything to become one of the top defenders in the world.

“He’s tall, he’s good in the air, he will always score some goals while also being comfortable on the ball with both feet and fast. The only thing he has to improve now is his experience because he’s still very young but playing on a high level.

“I think Jarrad can also play in a system like Arsenal or Manchester City with a lot of space behind him because he’s so fast and he’s reading the game quite well for such a young boy. I expect he will have a great, great future both on a national and maybe even international level.”

Indeed, my colleague Joe Thomas, the ECHO’s Everton correspondent – who like I watched him home and away this term – has tipped him to become a future England captain but after a brief cameo off the bench against Bosnia and Herzegovina at St James’ Park on Monday, Gareth Southgate has seemingly seen enough to decide that Branthwaite is not worth a place within his enlarged 26-man squad for this summer’s European Championship. If this squad is being picked on merit, it’s a frankly staggering call.

It’s often said that the bookies don’t tend to get things wrong but barely three hours earlier, gambling.com had sent out a press release claiming that Branthwaite was 1/10 (eg a probability chance of almost 91%) to go to the Euros – and that was before Harry Maguire was ruled out through injury. Seriously, other than Everton old boy John Stones, a multiple Premier League title and Champions League winner with Manchester City, which of the other central defensive options that the Three Lions are taking with them to Germany would even get in Dyche’s line-up ahead of Branthwaite and the tough as teak James Tarkowski?

The correct answer of course is none.

When Joe and I were travelling down to London by train for Everton’s final game of the season with Arsenal I was thumbing through World Soccer’s guide to the European Championships and the lists of the prospective squads when it struck me that given the incredible talent at their disposal, if England don’t lift the trophy in Berlin next month then they’re probably never going to win a major tournament. Certainly if Southgate fails to deliver this time around then a man who has been respectable ambassador for the England national team but is ultimately a failed club manager, cannot have any excuses.

Having enjoyed a meteoric rise in a spectacular breakthrough season in the Premier League, the best thing for Branthwaite now would be to focus on continuing that progress in what will be an historic final campaign for the Blues at Goodison Park. The toxic atmosphere of Old Trafford – where the stadium announcer couldn’t even get his name right when he played there in March, instead calling him “Gerrard Braithwaite” – would not be a nurturing environment for his talent.

With the player now not having a seat on the plane to the Euros, the last thing anyone at Everton needs is Manchester United chancing their arm before the end of June by repeating their trick of summer 2013 when they tried to nick Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini with what Goodison chiefs described as an “insulting and derisory” offer. Branthwaite is a world-class prospect who, if he continues on his current trajectory, can follow the likes of compatriots Jack Grealish and Declan Rice in being valued in the £100million plus bracket.