The Inside Track on Chelsea's Transfer Guru Marina Granovskaia

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportJuly 13, 2017

The Inside Track on Chelsea's Transfer Guru Marina Granovskaia

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    Marina Granovskaia is the silent force behind Chelsea's transfer business.

    Born in Russia, she has spent the past 18 years working alongside Roman Abramovich in various roles but moved to London shortly after he bought Chelsea in 2003.

    Her official title is director, though Granovskaia is more precisely in charge of player transactions—a role she has thrived in.

    From the £50 million signing of Fernando Torres to the £60 million sale of Oscar, she has been the brains behind big-money headlines.

    West Ham United's Karren Brady may be the most high-profile woman in English football, but Granovskaia is the most powerful.

    When it comes to the transfer market, she's Chelsea's Special One.

The Path to Success

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    Chelsea have come a long way since Abramovich arrived on the scene.

    Their historic Champions League win in 2012 and five Premier League title successes have elevated Chelsea to elite status, and their business model has moved on in turn.

    Granovskaia works closely with technical director Michael Emenalo and has helped shape the academy, as well as the loan department that has caused so much fuss.

    Chelsea's loan system sees many players sent to clubs across Europe every season. The aim is to help their development but often works as a money-making scheme, as players are often sold rather than given a path to the first team upon returning to Stamford Bridge.

    Granovskaia has spent many hours at Vitesse Arnhem, in particular, strengthening Chelsea's link with the Dutch club to whom they send so many players for first-team experience.

    Key roles for the Chelsea director also include buying and selling players and dealing with contract extensions.

    On a personal level, she has become one of the most impressive, fearless and successful negotiators in the business. On a club level, Chelsea have reaped the rewards.

Bringing in Cash

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    A quick glance at the ins and outs at Stamford Bridge from recent seasons shows the incredible business Chelsea have been able to pull off, and Granovskaia has been at the centre of it all.

    Player sales have been particularly eyebrow-raising. The deal that sent Oscar to Shanghai SIPG for £60 million last winter stands out as a masterstroke, but there have been other deals that were almost as impressive.

    This summer, Nathan Ake has signed for Bournemouth for £20 million, with Asmir Begovic's switch to the same club banking an extra £10 million. The pair made just 26 Premier League appearances for the Blues between them. 

    In January 2016, there was the £25 million sale of midfielder Ramires to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning.

    And in 2014, they sold Romelu Lukaku and David Luiz for a combined £68 million, which basically covered the cost of signing Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa—key figures as Chelsea went on to win the league.

    Many in the game describe Granovskaia as the best transfer negotiator in the business.

    If Chelsea go on to sell Nemanja Matic  to Manchester United for a further £40 million this summer, as is being touted, her credentials would be further underlined.

Making Big Deals

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    It looks like things may not be going to plan for Chelsea right now, but let's not write off the summer transfer window just yet.

    Yes, there is frustration that Manchester United pipped them to the signing of Romelu Lukaku. And yes, other deals, such as that for AS Monaco's Tiemoue Bakayoko, are taking longer than expected to cross the line.

    But there is every reason to believe big names will be on the way.

    To get an idea of how capable Granovskaia is of making magic happen, take a glance back to January 2011. Liverpool's Fernando Torres was pretty much the best forward in the business, and she managed to lure him to west London.

    Forget that the move did not work out for the Spaniard. That's not her fault. At the time, the deal was sensational.

    Granovskaia was also in control of sealing the £32 million deal for Diego Costa, the man who replaced Torres at Stamford Bridge as star striker.

    Oh, and don't forget that time Chelsea pipped Tottenham Hotspur to the signing of Willian—she was behind that too.

Player Relations

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    Granovskaia acts as Abramovich's eyes and ears around Chelsea. If the owner has concerns over form or other issues that he wants to relay to the dressing room, it is usually her job to act as the go-between.

    Abramovich keeps himself at arm's length most of the time, and that is why he puts so much faith in his close ally Granovskaia to pass on his messages to the squad.

    Insiders describe how Granovskaia takes no prisoners when it comes to negotiations, be it transfer deals or new contracts.

    Granovskaia has been at the centre of many big signings, but no agent or player will get the better of her. She always works hard to strike the best deals in Chelsea's favour.

    While she won't let special relationships with agents cloud her thoughts, she does allow herself to get to know the club's playing staff and give them her support.

    The director also has her favourite players—as any fan does—and it is believed one of those is Costa. Apparently, his attitude on the pitch has always been viewed as his shining quality.

    Having to negotiate a deal to sell the player as he looks for a move back to Atletico Madrid may not be easy. But as with any business, she will strive to get the best deal for Chelsea.

Leading Chelsea into the Future

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    Chelsea are the English champions, and Granovskaia is a major part of the operation to ensure they do not lose their grip. As well as signings, she also has an eye on club morale.

    It is understood she has been busy over the summer with trying to ensure manager Antonio Conte keeps faith in the task at hand.

    There have been reports, such as via Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph, that the manager has been frustrated over the transfer policy, and there have even been some concerns about his position.

    It is understood Granovskaia has played a key role in ensuring Conte the club's summer plans remained on track, speaking to him before any discussions take place with Abramovich.

    Granovskaia is said to be good with people and was influential in Jose Mourinho's return in 2013. There previously seemed no way back in the relationship between him and Abramovich, but Granovskaia knew it was important to heal the wounds—and for Mourinho to have a second spell in charge.

    She continues to prove important in terms of managerial relations.

    Granovskaia keeps a low profile, and there are few people who are able to get too close to understanding how she operates within the Chelsea model.

    But from speaking to anyone who has had any contact with her, it is clear she is as focused on success as any other major figure at the club.