Jarrad Branthwaite comes with triple-threat tax for Man Utd or Man City

Jarrad Branthwaite and Joleon Lescott
Jarrad Branthwaite and Joleon Lescott

“Left-footed, centre-half, English, it comes with a premium and I should know,” said Joleon Lescott with a self-deprecating laugh you can only convincingly deploy with two Premier League winner’s medals in your back pocket. It’s been almost 15 years since Lescott joined Manchester City from Everton for what was briefly a ludicrous £22m sum, but the triple-threat tax has only rocketed since he unexpectedly became football gold-dust in 2009.

For Lescott in 2009, read Jarrad Branthwaite in 2024. Both at Everton, both left-sided, both the subject of substantial transfer interest from far bigger clubs. Lescott forced through his move to Manchester City but Branthwaite will not have to do the same; Everton’s FFP issues mean that any reasonable fee will be accepted. But they will hope for a bidding war that will create an unreasonable fee close to £80m.

There have been questions about whether Branthwaite is even left-footed (a former coach says otherwise) but it’s something he is understandably keen to claim, saying earlier this season: “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.”

It’s little wonder that Manchester United and Manchester City are both incredibly interested; United’s struggles this season can at least in part be attributed to the absences of Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw. As a coach who wants to build from the back, Erik ten Hag has been hamstrung by the lack of a left-footed defender.

His comments after moving Harry Maguire to the right were telling: “The angles are not good for Harry if he is playing on the left side, it’s difficult for him also defending in wide areas on his left foot but I think he is more capable on the right. Victor is very good, he can use both feet and I think he also did a brilliant job in the rest of defence and the defensive transitions. That’s why we prefer to do it with them in this way.”

It’s little wonder that Manchester United have been strongly linked with both Branthwaite and Marc Guehi, who is right-footed but plays on the left side and seems equally adept with both feet. Add their reported ‘Buy British’ policy and both Everton and Crystal Palace should be able to name their (very high) price.

But if there’s a ball-playing English centre-half available then Manchester City will inevitably be as interested as they were in 2009 with Lescott and 2016 with John Stones. Pep Guardiola has spent heavily on left-footed options Nathan Ake and Josko Gvardiol after finding himself hampered by the absence and then exit of Aymeric Laporte.

“He has something that we don’t otherwise have in the squad – his left foot in a central defender,” the manager said as City found themselves left behind by Liverpool in the title race in early 2020. “There are many actions to build up – to make our play quicker, better – but we can’t do them. Not because the other players are not good but because Laporte is the only left-footed central defender.”

He has armed himself since then but he would clearly be tempted by Branthwaite, described as a “student of the game” by Lescott. And any student of the game would be tempted to work with Guardiola, who would relish training any Dyche-isms out of his game.

And if not Branthwaite then perhaps Levi Colwill, also linked with both Manchester City and Liverpool, who have their own left-sided (if not left-footed) totem in Virgil van Dijk who will need to be replaced. Left-footed, centre-half, English, it comes with a premium, or at least that’s what Everton and Chelsea will hope.