Carlo Ancelotti must block Manchester United from signing Jarrad Branthwaite after the Red Devils became the latest Premier League club to begin monitoring the Everton prospect.
According to the Daily Mail, Red Devils scouts are tracking Branthwaite’s progress following an impressive start to life on loan with Championship side Blackburn Rovers.
The left-sided centre-back moved to Ewood Park in the recent winter transfer market and made his seventh outing under Tony Mowbray during Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest, having yet missed a second of available game time at the second-tier outfit.
Ancelotti sanctioned a half-season loan spell for the £15,000-per-week 18-year-old as he recognised the need for him to play regular senior football, having only awarded Branthwaite one of his five appearances for Everton during the 2020/21 campaign.
Branthwaite joined the Toffees from Carlisle United in a £1m move in January 2020, and is noted as having earned the attention of Liverpool and Manchester City, as well as United, given his stylish and impressive performances for the Blues and Blackburn.
Everton are happy with Branthwaite’s progress and see him making the step up to a regular first-team role at Goodison Park in the future, where question marks are said to lie on Yerry Mina’s future with Ancelotti’s best centre-back partnership still unclear.
But the Merseyside outfit are wary of the increasing number of sides eying Branthwaite, while Manchester United consider their future options as well as a first-team ready centre-half for the upcoming summer window.
The heightening interest in Branthwaite from the Premier League’s established top-six sides just goes to show the level he has been performing at with Blackburn, despite Rovers now being without a single point from their last four Championship games.
Mowbray oversaw a 1-1 draw against Stoke City in Branthwaite’s first match for the Ewood Park natives, after which he described the 6 ft 5 titan’s display as “remarkable” for his age. And, despite Blackburn’s form since, the Rovers boss continues to be impressed by the England U19 international, as he “does what it says on the tin” most weeks.
Branthwaite’s displays have also returned the highest average number of successful tackles per game by a Championship centre-back who has played at least five times this term with 2.7, per WhoScored – the next-best being AFC Bournemouth duo Diego Rico (2.2) and £12m man Chris Mepham (2).
Everton’s teenage talent further ranks ninth among all second-tier centre-halves for interceptions with 2.3 a game (Rico is first with 3.3), which would see him rank first at Goodison Park (Michael Keane and Mason Holgate are first with 1.4) and second for successful tackles – only behind Holgate (3), and with more than Mina (1) and Keane (0.8) combined.
If Branthwaite continues to impress on a similar trajectory between now and the end of the season, he will be more than ready to play a role in Ancelotti’s plans next term – especially should Mina depart – or secure a Premier League loan to gain further top-flight experience.
What Everton cannot do is sanction a permanent deal for the defender to join a Manchester United, City or Liverpool, as the Blues would only live to regret letting a future star leave so early in his career.