Marina Granovskaya – the most powerful woman in football

If you don’t know the name, it’s only because she doesn’t want you. Marina Granovskaya is the very private director of Chelsea Football Club, who thanks to her sharp negotiating skills made her famous as the “First Lady of Football”.

Although never given a public interview – and the only sighting of the businesswoman through the bizarre photo on Chelsea’s website – there is no doubting how influential she was. Last year, she was named the best club manager in European football and is known for effectively managing Chelsea for Abramovich over recent years. She has been responsible for player transfers and contracts since 2013, as well as securing a record Nike sponsorship deal worth £900m. Granovskaia is undoubtedly a force off the field.

Then Chelsea fans will be disappointed to hear this week’s announcement that Granovskaia will be stepping down from her role – with her receiving a £20m exit bonus. The decision comes as American businessman Todd Boehle completes his takeover of the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

So how did Granovskaya become the “most powerful woman in football”?

Roman Abramovich’s right-hand woman

Jose Mourinho shakes hands with Chelsea manager Marina Granovskaya

/ Getty Images

Granovskaya and former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich have a long history. They first started working together in 1997 shortly after Granovskaia graduated from Moscow State University with a BA in Foreign Languages ​​with Honors. She is a native Russian and is fluent in English and many other European languages ​​- but allegedly if she loses her temper, she chooses to swear in her mother tongue.

Granovskaia first started as Abramovich’s personal assistant at his oil company Sibneft, followed by a short stint at Millhouse, the oligarch’s asset management company. By 2003 she was helping him run his London office as de facto chief of staff and providing PR advice. I also got a luxury apartment within the Stamford Bridge complex

First Lady of Football

Darren Walsh/Chelsea via Getty Images

It was in 2003 when Granovskaya first joined Chelsea. Over the next seven years, her influence increased at Stamford Bridge as she began helping with multimillion-pound transfers. Granovskaya’s negotiating powers were immediately felt when she led the renewal of contracts for key players such as John Terry.

Success followed like the night after – two Premier League wins in Abramovich’s first three years and five Champions League semi-finals in his first six quickly established the club on the world stage.

On top of all the accolades she helped amass, Granovskaya has also been integral to building relationships with Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem, which to this day serves as a breeding ground for many of Chelsea’s young talents. She also coordinated the move to Chelsea’s new training ground in Cobham, which opened in 2007 and is one of the best in the country.

All of this helped cement her position at Stamford Bridge, securing the official role as Abramovich’s representative in 2010. Within three years she was sworn in on the club’s board of directors, and in 2017 she demonstrated her fierce bargaining power by pegging Nike for £60m. One-year shirt sponsorship deal (£900m total) with Chelsea – which runs until 2032.

Chelsea manager Marina Granovskaya and technical and performance advisor Petr Cech

/ Reuters

“She’s basically the strength at Chelsea,” a source told the Evening Standard. “Roman tacitly trusts her. She’s not interested in being famous but there is no doubt who is in charge and who is the decision maker.”

Granovskaia has shown its power in orchestrating some of Chelsea’s biggest transfers of the past decade. Snatching Fernando Torres out of the clutches of Liverpool in 2011, even for £50m, was no small feat, and neither were in contention to sign Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa after only finishing behind Lionel Messi in the 2013 La Liga scoring charts. /14.

When she was eventually appointed as the club’s CEO in 2014, that made her “the most powerful woman in football,” according to the New York Times.

Chelsea via Getty Images

Luxury life

Working for one of the world’s richest football clubs brings its fair share of benefits. First, her seven-figure salary is between £1.5 and 2m a year – not to mention her £20m exit bonus. Overall, Granovskaia’s personal net worth is estimated at $1.9 billion. But how do you spend it?

Well, her favorite restaurant is Knightsbridge Sumosan Twiga, the brand formerly founded by Benetton. [later Renault F1] Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore.

As for any tales about her home, any children, or a partner? Still elusive. She, of course, avoids social media.

What does her exit mean for the future of Chelsea?

Granovskaya’s impending departure means the search for a new sporting director believes Andrea Berta of Atletico Madrid is the favorite. Owner and newly appointed Chairman Boehly will act as interim sporting director.

It is not yet clear when Granovskaya will leave, but it is now expected before the end of the window, which means Buhli will also be tasked with negotiating transfers this summer – something he is already doing while negotiating Romelu Lukaku’s loan return to Inter.

Chelsea via Getty Images

This responsibility will also be shared by Director Thomas Tuchel, who allegedly wants to give more power over hiring.

There are also question marks over the future of Petr Cech, who has been working as a technical and performance advisor for the club and a transfer advisor. He may also decide to leave Stamford Bridge after a change of ownership, although his ties to the former regime and Roman Abramovich are less robust than Granovskaia.

As for Granovskaia’s next moves, some fans have mocked that her net worth is so great that she could buy Everton, which was said to have been put up for sale by Farhad Moshiri.

While she’s unlikely to do that, one thing is for sure: She can fulfill any football fever dream she’s ever dreamed of.

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