LONDON - Everton’s new director of football, Marcel Brands, has denied claims that Everton only beat Manchester United to Yerry Mina’s signature by paying huge fees to his agent.
Mina, the Colombia defender who starred at the World Cup, became entwined in the major story towards the end of the window, which was United’s increasingly scattergun approach to finding a new centre back.
He was one of several options United considered but sources close to the deal at Old Trafford claimed they withdrew from negotiations with Barcelona because Mina’s agent, his uncle Jair, was demanding an excessive fee.
The version of events put forward on Wednesday by Brands offers a different perspective. Brands revealed that Mina, who has cost an initial £28.5million, was manager Marco Silva’s prime target and Everton were always the player’s preferred destination.
Asked whether Everton had paid an unusually high fee to Mina’s agent, Brands said: "No, it was really simple behind the scenes. I put the offer in and Barcelona asked for a totally different amount that we would never have paid.
"Then they said, 'OK, we will wait until the end of the market'. We never changed our offer. That was a bit of a gamble because everyone was writing about Man United (wanting Mina) and Barcelona used that, agents used that, everyone used it.
"The player said constantly to me, 'I want to go to Everton'. That was a great thing for us but you never know if Manchester United come in and offer an extra £150,000 a week — every player would like that.
"Barcelona said to me, 'Man United are coming in'. I don’t know if they did but I took a bit of a risk with that. That’s why we were also keen on back-ups. You never know. But after the weekend before the market closed, I had a confident feeling about it."
There were also suggestions that Barcelona wanted to use Mina and Andre Gomes plus cash to sign Paul Pogba from United. But Brands made it clear that Gomes, the Portugal midfielder who moved to Goodison Park on loan on deadline day, did so in a separate deal.
"I went to Barcelona twice at the end of June to speak about a few players, as Lucas Digne was on our list with Mina," said Brands. "I asked about Gomes and they said no, he was only for sale. I went back at the end of the window and they said (a loan) could be an option."
It has been a hectic start to life at Everton for Brands, who was recruited from PSV Eindhoven by major shareholder Farhad Moshiri to replace Steve Walsh. His biggest bit of business so far is the £44m recruitment of Richarlison from Watford.
Given the animosity between the clubs following Everton’s initial approach last November for Silva, who was then Watford’s manager, Brands admitted he was forced to pay a premium for the Brazilian forward. He expects the 21-year-old, however, to prove money well spent.
"We had to pay a little bit more," said Brands. "Maybe the market value was a little bit lower but, at the end, we are happy with him. He can be very special. He has a lot of speed, the capability to work, he is strong, he is tall. They are important qualities. We have improved the squad. It is now for Marco and his staff to make a good team."
Everton striker Nikola Vlasic agreed yesterday to join CSKA Moscow on loan for the season and Brands expects Cuco Martina, Muhamed Besic and Yannick Bolasie to leave before the European deadline on August 31.