Everton have slapped a huge £100m price tag on highly-rated centre-back Jarrad Branthwaite to deter suitors that include Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund.
Branthwaite has been outstanding for Everton this season, his form propelling him to the verge of an England breakthrough as the Toffees have wiped out the 10-point deduction imposed on them by the Premier League.
He has been a big part of the four successive clean sheets in the league and looked equally at home at left-back as they were edged out of the Carabao Cup by Fulham on penalties on Tuesday.
One recruitment insider told i Branthwaite is a “Rolls Royce defender who has everything” and believes he will be an England regular for years to come. Gareth Southgate was present at Goodison Park earlier this month as Branthwaite excelled in a 2-0 win over Chelsea and a call-up for the spring internationals looks inevitable.
That form has predictably attracted interest in the 21-year-old with Manchester United and Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund both understood to have scouted him recently. Tottenham have also been maintaining a watching brief.
But i can reveal that Everton’s valuation of Branthwaite is £100m, which would be a record transfer for a defender and outstrip the £80m Manchester United paid for Harry Maguire.
It also illustrates Everton’s desire to keep hold of the centre-back, with insiders telling i that the club are not under pressure to sell their star asset in January despite uncertainty surrounding their ownership.
The Toffees believe Branthwaite’s age, ability, his status as a left-sided centre-back and likely international future England mean there is a huge premium on his price.
They would also be entitled to point to the prices quoted for young English talent recently and the fact they have Branthwaite tied to a long-term deal that was signed in October. He is under contract until 2027 and is understood to be happy at the club.
There is a further complication for any potential suitor to factor in. Under the terms of his initial move from Carlisle to Everton, the Cumbrians negotiated a 10 per cent sell-on clause for Branthwaite so that would need to be factored into any potential sale.
The news probably rules out any sale in January although the uncertainty over Everton’s ownership means the next transfer window is a difficult one to call at Goodison Park.
The club announced a sale had been agreed with 777 Partners back in September with the transaction expected to close in the “final quarter of 2023”.
But with approval from the Premier League and Financial Conduct Authority still awaited, the future remains unclear.
777 Partners have agreed to loan the club money until the end of January to help cover running costs and the stadium build, with the estimated £100m of debt accrued to be converted into equity when the sale is completed.
Everton are understood to have a contingency plan in case the takeover is blocked but all parties insist they remain focused on getting the deal over the line.
As part of a concerted PR drive on behalf of the prospective owners, 777’s sporting director Johannes Spors has mapped out plans to transform Everton’s long-term fortunes. But the short-term is very much dictated by the club’s ownership situation being resolved in the first weeks of 2024.