If you don’t know the name, it’s only because she doesn’t want to. Marina Granovskaia is the ultra-private manager of Chelsea Football Club who, thanks to her notoriously sharp negotiating skills, has been hailed as the ‘first lady of football’.
Although she has never done a public interview and tightly controls the images of her that are published, there is no doubt as to the extent of her influence. Last year she was named the best club manager in European football and is known for effectively managing Chelsea for Abramovich in recent years. She has been in charge of player transfers and deals since 2013, as well as securing a record £900m Nike sponsorship deal. Granovskaia is undoubtedly a powerhouse off the pitch.
Chelsea fans will then be disappointed to hear this week’s announcement that Granovskaia is to step down from her role – taking with her an exit bonus worth £20million. The move comes as US businessman Todd Boehly completes his takeover of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
So how did Granovskaia become ‘the most powerful woman in football’?
Roman Abramovich’s right arm
Granovskaia and former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich have a long history. They started working together in 1997, shortly after Granovskaia graduated with honors in foreign languages from Moscow State University. She is a native Russian speaker and is fluent in English and several other European languages - but it is claimed that if she loses her temper she chooses to swear in her native language.
Granovskaia was first Abramovich’s personal assistant at his oil company Sibneft, followed by a brief stint at Millhouse, the oligarch’s asset management company. In 2003, she was helping him run his London office as de facto chief of staff and offering him public relations advice. She was also given a luxury apartment in the Stamford Bridge complex
The first lady of football
It was in 2003 that Granovskaia first became involved with Chelsea. Over the next seven years, she increased her influence at Stamford Bridge as she began helping with multi-million pound transfers. Granovskaia’s bargaining powers were immediately felt as she led contract renewals for key players such as John Terry.
Success followed like night follows day – two Premier League wins in Abramovich’s first three years and five Champions League semi-final appearances in his first six quickly established the club on the scene world.
Along with all the trophies she has helped collect, Granovskaia has also been instrumental in building relationships with Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem, which has served as a breeding ground for much of Chelsea’s young talent. She also orchestrated the move to Chelsea’s new training ground at Cobham, which opened in 2007 and is one of the best in the country.
All of this helped cement her position at Stamford Bridge, and she was given the official role of Abramovich’s representative in 2010. Within three years, she was sworn into the club’s board, and in 2017 she demonstrated his fierce bargaining power in tying Nike to a £60million deal. -a one-year shirt sponsorship deal (£900m in total) with Chelsea – which runs until 2032.
“She is basically the power at Chelsea,” a source told the Evening Standard. “Roman trusts her implicitly. She’s not interested in being a celebrity, but there’s no doubt who’s in charge and who makes the decisions.”
Granovskaia has shown courage in orchestrating some of Chelsea’s biggest transfers of the past decade. Stripping Fernando Torres from the clutches of Liverpool in 2011, even for £50m, was no small feat, and neither fought off competition to sign Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa after he finished just one goal behind Lionel Messi in the 2013/14 La Liga goalscoring charts.
When she was finally appointed as the club’s chief executive in 2014, it made her “the most powerful woman in football”, according to The New York Times.
A life of luxury
Working for one of the richest football clubs in the world comes with its own set of perks. First, there’s his seven-figure salary which is said to be between £1.5m and £2m a year – not to mention the £20m exit bonus. In total, Granovskaia’s personal net worth is estimated at $1.9 billion. But how does she spend it?
Well, his favorite restaurant is Knightsbridge Restaurant Sumosan Twiga, the brand founded by the former Benetton [later Renault F1] Flavio Briatore, Formula 1 team principal.
As for information about his house, his children or his partner? She remains elusive. And she, of course, avoids social networks.
What does his exit mean for Chelsea’s future?
Granovskaia’s impending departure means the hunt is on for a new sporting director with Atletico Madrid’s Andrea Berta reportedly the favourite. Owner and new chairman Boehly will act as interim sporting director.
It is not yet known when Granovskaia will leave, but it is now expected to be before the end of the window, which means Boehly will also be in charge of negotiating transfers this summer – which he is already doing then. that he negotiates the return of Romelu Lukaku’s loan to Inter.
This responsibility will also be shared by manager Thomas Tuchel, to whom Boehly would like to give more power over recruitment.
There are also question marks over the future of Petr Cech, who has acted as the club’s technical and performance adviser and transfer consultant. He too could decide to leave Stamford Bridge after the change of ownership, although his ties to the previous regime and Roman Abramovich are less strong than Granovskaia.
As for Granovskaia’s next moves, some fans have joked that her net worth is so big that she can afford to buy Everton, which has reportedly been put up for sale by Farhad Moshiri.
Although it’s unlikely she will, one thing is for sure: she won’t run out of options.