Back in 2017, in the wake of Micheal Emenalo’s departure, Chelsea FC’s billionaire owner, the Russian Oligarch, Roman Abramovich appointed the then little known Marina Granovskaia the de facto Sporting Director of the club. Many in the football world might have been nonplussed, amused, and confused, failing to see any logic in the appointment.
Aside from the obvious sexist criticisms of the appointment, many questioned why Marina Granovskaia, a vastly inexperienced, unknown quantity was being entrusted with the responsibility of player recruitment at one of the world’s biggest football clubs.
Six years later, it is safe to say that if Granovskaia’s doubters deserve to eat their humble pie, it would serve them well to have double servings. To begin with, those that thought of her as being an “unknown quantity” were simply ignorant. This was a woman who knew the club inside out, having joined it with Abramovich himself when he took over in 2003.
Over the next decade, Granovskaia established herself as an indispensable member of the club’s administrative hierarchy, sowing and harvesting relationships crucial to the groundbreaking deals she has gone on to oversee. By the time of her assumption of recruitment duties, she had not only consolidated her power within the club but also developed a reputation as a charmer of some of the best talents in the world.
Over the next decade, Marina Granovskaia has established herself as an indispensable member of the club’s administrative hierarchy
Granovskaia definitely proved her haters wrong when she did the unfathomable job of convincing Jose Mourinho to return to the club as manager, six years after he had left the role in acrimonious circumstances, is with the benefit of hindsight, a pointer of the success that was to come in her present role as the club’s chief recruiter.
It is true that the Portuguese tactician’s reign ended disastrously but it is also impossible to ignore the fact that he guided Chelsea to a fourth Premier League title and reasserted its dominance as a European powerhouse. Since then, she has also consistently signed the right players for the club, which has ensured the club’s maintenance of its place at the pinnacle of the English Premier League.
Casual observation reveals the clinical signings (clinical because of how ruthlessly she outmanoeuvred her competitors) of Diego Costa, Pedro Rodriguez, Antonio Rüdiger, Marcos Alonso, Ng’olo Kante, Jorginho and now, Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner.
Coupled with this has been the systematic offloading of players deemed surplus to requirements, a lot of whom, it must be noted, were moved on at a profit. The primary example here is Nemanja Matic, who for all his abilities, was already declining when she somehow squeezed forty million pounds from Manchester United for him.
Then there is Costa, Thibaut Courtois, Alvaro Morata, not forgetting the mercurial Eden Hazard, who have all been moved on for significant sums, which have been shrewdly re-invested in the purchase of able replacements such as Christian Pulisic.
This is an indicator of her financial nous, as well as her understanding of the basic sport’s rule of making decisions for the team with quickness and decisiveness, and with an eye on the future. Of course, there have been mistakes, such as the fact that she sanctioned the signing of players who did not live up to their billing, like the aforementioned Moratta, as well as Kepa Arrizabalaga who was brought in at a World Record fee for a goalkeeper but continues to underwhelm.
She has also appointed maverick managers such as the chain-smoking Italian tactician Maurizio Sarri, whose methods never really caught on in his one year in charge, as well as Antonio Conte, whose abrasive nature put him on a collision course with her from the first day of his tenure.
Even with that considered, it is important to note that both these managers won trophies in all their seasons in charge of the club, with the former lifting the Europa League, and the latter clinching to the league in his first season, and the FA Cup in his second and final one.
To clearly and fairly analyse her performance, it becomes crucial to compare and weigh her failures against her successes and one thing that is crystal clear is the fact that more of her decisions have been hits and not misses.
Author: Timothy Ainebyoona
Timothy is a dynamic analyst passionate about news and all things sport.