PSV seemed to join the ranks of Dutch behemoths Ajax and Feyenoord over the last 15 years with a huge string of titles. The last years, however, PSV had to allow two non-Top-Three clubs (Twente and AZ) to snatch the title while Ajax won it twice in a row now.
Fred Rutten had to make way, just like 95% of the squad was renewed over the last two years. The designer behind this renovation is Marcel Brands. With Martin van Geel (ex Willem II, ex AZ, ex Ajax and currently Feyenoord) the most “visible” of technical managers in the Dutch Eredivisie. And like Van Geel, he has a history as a player in the Feyenoord jersey (Van Geel also played for Ajax).
Brands succeeded Van Geel when the latter left AZ for Ajax and PSV was happy to snatch the former Feyenoord and RKC midfielder to reconstruct the PSV squad.
You used to be able to find cheap players with a lot of potential, but at PSV it is as if you are throwing big money to young and coming talent?
Marcel Brands: “That has to do with the club where you work. At AZ, we had less means. We had to buy smart. PSV has a higher yard stick. We want to win titles and play along in the CL. This means you have the buy quality. And quality costs more money. At PSV, we need players who can immediately settle in. We used to get players for the future, like Stef Nijland, but that doesn’t work here. Jetro Willems is an exception. He was signed for the C team and immediately made his way in. But players like Narsignh and Wijnaldum are players who are expected to deliver immediately.”
Narsingh was also on Ajax’ hit list. Did you outbid them?
MB: “No. He could make more in Amsterdam. He simply wanted to play for PSV. That is a strong factor, which is often overlooked. We wanted to sign Sighthorsson as well, last year but he picked Ajax. Not because we didn’t offer enough. But because he always dreamed of playing for Ajax. You can’t fight that.”
Don’t you fear that clubs will make use of the fact that PSV is willing to pay top dollar?
MB: “But we aren’t. We set the norm for players. If a club doesn’t want to negotiate, we walk away. We wanted Moisander from AZ, last year. They over-asked and we walked. Same with Jorgensen from Kopenhagen. We are prudent, even though out budget is bigger than other clubs.”
So you changed the squad and technical staff over two seasons. Is this the Year of Reckoning for PSV?
MB: “You can name it what you want, haha. The point is that we have certain expectations. And sometimes, the media share this opinion and then they proclaim us to be the title favorites. But you can only know if this is reasonable when you’re a couple of weeks into the new season. Players need to settle, tactics need to fit, etc. Once it’s August 31, the market closes and it’s up to the coach to work with the material.”
The current squad has three PSV talents (Depay, Locadia and van Ooijen) in it. Is that satisfactory?
MB: “We are starting to see talents. I am satisfied about the progression. We can also see it in the Oranje youth teams. We didn’t have starters in those youth teams. We have more and more starters now. We have some huge talents in Eindhoven.”
Were you shocked by the level of the PSV Academy when you came here in 2010?
MB: “The density of talents in Eindhoven is less than Amsterdam or Rotterdam. That is fact. Plus, our competitors spend much more than we do on their Academy. Viktor Fischer of Ajax, has cost them 1,4 Mio euros! We have never paid a fee like that for a youth player! We only invested 700k euros per year on the whole academy! So, the low return is not that strange, considering those facts.”
PSV had a tremendous number of Belgian talents in the youth academy. None of them ever made it through?
MB: “I know. Belgium is part of our service area. It’s only 30 car minutes and you’re in Belgium. But we have now deployed the rule that the further a talent lives, the better he needs to be. We have three quality levels (A, B, C) and players who live further away, like in Belgium, need to be A-level players. We now have a Belgium player in our midst, 16 year old Bakkali, who is definitely A-team quality.”
It was quite a battle to keep him in Eindhoven, right?
MB: “Yes it was. That is today’s football world. Someone from Anderlecht simply stood at the door of Bakkali, to try and get him to sign. And one day before we would sign our contract with him, some unlicensed agent invited him to come and see a Manchester City match. Man City!! The lad is only just 16. Luckily he was strong enough to ignore these people. But there is only so much you can do. We hope to be able to keep a good relationship with the kids’ parents. They are the ones that can be counted on, to take the wellbeing of the kid into account. But, we lost Perreira, who went to Man United. He was 16 years old and it was his dad who forced this move…so…”
And now, PSV sold two players to the two Sevilla clubs and is owed 5 Mio euros. Which are not forthcoming…
MB: “this happened before my time. I don’t know all the facts. It’s the Spanish federation that is at fault. In Holland, Germany or England this would never happen. When at AZ, I sold Medunjanin to Valladolid. For 450k. We’d get half in cash at signing and half a year later. That second half was never paid, but Valladolid sold him on to Tel Aviv for 600k and still AZ didn’t get paid. That is just crazy… Only in Spain.”
Remarkable, Dick Advocaat had allowed you to cut away a full time equivalent in his staff? He only works for Ernest Faber and sometimes Cocu as assistant?
MB: “That is result of Dick’s philosophy. He doesn’t want to work with line-coaches. One for attack, one for midfield and one for defence. He rather has one assistant for the whole week, than 3 assistants for 2 days in the week. We also want to invest more in youth academy coaches.”
When is PSV able to invest in a serious way in youth?
MB: “That has to do with our CL qualifications. Once we get acces to the CL, the income stream will increase and we can make some delayed investments. We are still making investments. Narsingh is one example. But we also invested in a heated practice pitch, we renovated the the first floor of the main stands…we do what we can.”
PSV also wanted to decrease wages cost in the A-squad. Did that happen?
MB: “Yes, we have a salary cap. 1 million euros gross and no one is paid beyond. When I started here, we had 7 players above that level.”
And suddenly we here in Eindhoven that the title must be won. Must?
MB: “Yes, that is Dick Advocaat for ya. He is the one articulating the objectives loud and clear. THis is also the difference between Rutten and Advocaat. Advocaat is not happy when he doesn’t win anything. Our squad is ready, we have experience and talent in all lines. We are ready.
In the first weeks of the Dutch competition, the hand of Advocaat is not yet too visible.
He has had his run ins with big name players such as Mertens and Wijnaldum and he has also put Matavz and Narsingh on the shame bench. Matavz was too heavy and Narsingh didn’t deliver enough.
Advocaat means business, but he still needs to rule out the lack of consistency of his team.