The ultimate transfer queen: Chelsea’s Marina Granovskaia
Revenues have taken a hit. Strict lockdowns between March and June this year have meant that no football was possible. There’s still time before the economy in most places of the world takes an upturn again. At a time when revenue streams are depleting, organizations are finding the need to balance books.
The next logical step for a football team would be to lay-off non performers and minimize spending in a transfer window. Not for Chelsea Football Club. Their men’s team has welcomed a number of top talents to join the team in the summer of 2020.
The likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva have joined the club for a combined outlay of £200 million. Chelsea paid a club record fee to land Havertz and broke the women’s football record fee to sign Pernille Harder, all in one coronavirus-ravaged window!
At the centre of the decision making is Marina Granovskaia. The Director of Chelsea has assumed additional responsibilities of Chief Executive since 2014. The promotion made her the most powerful woman in football who calls the shots for the club in the transfer market.
Marina Granovskaia, a Russian-Canadian began working for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich at his oil company Sibneft in their native Russia.
She moved to London in 2003 to work at another Abramovich company called Millhouse Capital. Sibneft was later sold to Gazprom. Soon, she got involved with the Chelsea project and eventually climbed to the position of a Director.
Having worked with the Russian billionaire since 1997, she became one of his go-to employees. An analysis of her tenure at the club makes it easy to see why the Chelsea hierarchy rate Granovskaia so highly.
It’s believed that Granovskaia had a say in Chelsea’s transfer activity long before officially taking the job from Ron Gourlay in 2014. Her role in the buying of Fernando Torres in 2011 and Eden Hazard the following year seemed to have won over Abramovich.
The sale of Eden Hazard, an injury-prone star for about £100 million in 2019 enforces why she’s so highly regarded by Abramovich.
Granovskaia has an effective knack for bargaining. Possessing sharp business acumen, the Russian has made money out of unwanted players on more than one occasion.
She sold Alvaro Morata in July 2019 and managed to almost fully recover the £60 million spent on him. Keeping the wage structure in check, discussing player sales and building partnerships are all integral to Granovskaia’s job description.
She drove down the transfer fee for both Timo Werner as well as Kai Havertz in the 2020 summer window. Both RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen were holding out for a bigger windfall. But Granovskaia negotiated cheaper deals upfront by including clauses like performance related add-ons in player contracts.
According to the Daily Mail, she once told former club captain John Terry to “take it or f****** leave it” when he tried to change the terms of his contract. Terry has since denied this.
Cashing in on global appeal
As of June 2020, Chelsea are ranked 6th on Forbes’ list of most valuable football clubs in the world. Cumulatively, they have over a 100 million followers on social media. Marina Granovskaia is aligned with Abramovich’s vision of having the best players play for the men and women’s team.
They’re just as ambitious off the pitch. In 2016, Chelsea welcomed aboard sportswear brand Nike in a £900 million deal spanning over 15 years. Earlier this year, they ended their shirt deal with Japanese tyre company Yokohama Tyres which was worth about £40 million a year. In came British telecom and data service provider ‘Three’ on a more lucrative deal.
Marina Granovskaia played a major hand in these commercial partnerships. She’s also credited in developing Chelsea’s affiliation with Dutch first division side Vitesse Arnhem which started in 2010.
Vitesse are somewhat of a ‘feeder club’ for Chelsea. Every year, they take a number of Chelsea’s young players on loan and give them valuable game time.
Granovskaia was a graduate of Foreign Language Studies from Moscow State University. She speaks English fluently and can also communicate in a number of other European languages. Her multilingual abilities have made her popular among the Chelsea players.
Neil Ashton says that she has “been on texting terms with a lot of Chelsea players, which is not uncommon as a Chief Executive.”
Of course the same cannot be said about her equation with the outspoken Antonio Conte. Shortly before he was sacked by the club, Conte bluntly accused Granovskaia of “being responsible for every transfer.”
He was pointing fingers at Granovskaia’s unwillingness to consult him while dealing with transfers. Their relationship soured to a point that all communication between the two took place through assistant coach Carlo Cudicini.
All things said and done, Marina Granovskaia has brought Chelsea on the right track with her transfer dealings.
Technical advisor and former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech sums it up perfectly. “There is only one person in our club who makes things happen, and of course that’s Marina. She is the best when it comes to negotiating a transfer.”