Marina Granovskaia: the most powerful woman in world football
There has even been talk of Granovskaia taking a more formal role at Vitesse – whose links with Abramovich may be strengthened further if, as rumoured, a telephone company, Truphone, in which he has a significant stake, becomes the club’s new shirt sponsor – but she has a big enough job at Chelsea.
While Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr may be the richest woman in football and West Ham United’s vice-chairman Karren Brady may be the highest-profile it is increasingly evident that Granovskaia wields the most influence given her powerful status at Chelsea.
That status was formalised as one of the club’s four plc directors last year, in a low-key announcement by Chelsea that was in keeping with the low profile that Granovskaia wants to maintain.
Traditionally another Chelsea director, Eugene Tenenbaum, has been regarded as the main conduit between the club and Abramovich but that role has really belonged to Granovskaia who has worked for the Russian billionaire for 16 years and has always been far more influential than has been credited.
It is Granovskaia who has become the driving force behind Chelsea’s transfer deals – from signing Fernando Torres for £50million from Liverpool to the talks over securing his replacement, Diego Costa, for £31.5m – and it the dual Russian and Canadian national who was instrumental in the return of Jose Mourinho as manager. She travelled to Spain to hold the initial talks and fought hard to secure his return while others doubted the merits of the move.
Granovskaia will therefore be crucial in whether Mourinho’s homecoming to the club is a success given the tensions that have surfaced over the squad he has inherited and his plans to change it. Given, also, that Granovskaia gets on well with Chelsea’s technical director Michael Emenalo she is central to everything at the club.
Mention any deal Chelsea are involved in and Granovskaia’s name comes up: whether it was hijacking Tottenham Hotspur’s £30m move for Willian or the wrangle over fees paid to agents in Demba Ba’s £7m switch from Newcastle United or John Terry’s new contract. Agents and clubs all mention Marina.
One former Chelsea manager referred to Granovskaia as being part of the “gang” – Abramovich’s close circles of preferred advisers which includes another former manager, Bobby Campbell, the scout Piet de Visser and an agent Vlado Lemic – but she is far more important than that.
If someone wants to contact Abramovich, they contact Granovskaia, while if he wants to query why a decision has been made over a player or what can be done about Torres’ poor form, for example, then it is her who speaks to the manager.
Alexander Chigirinsky en Marina Granovskaia in GelreDome