Marina Granovskaia: Chelsea fixer who signed Costa and Jose
Who is the 'Stamford Bridge Tsarina', tipped to become the most powerful woman in football?
Marina Granovskaia, described as the "shadowy Tsarina of Stamford Bridge", has taken centre stage at Chelsea after the abrupt departure of chief executive Ron Gourlay this week.
The Russian and Canadian national who began her career working for Sibneft, Roman Abramovic's oil company, in 1997, is tipped to take over the role and is now arguably the most powerful woman in world football, says Jonathan Prynn of the Evening Standard.
She began working at Chelsea in 2010 and "soon emerged as Abramovich’s key lieutenant, establishing herself as the link between the board and the club’s owner", writes Matt Hughes in The Times. She has overseen Chelsea's transfer dealings since then, helping bring the likes of Fernando Torres and Diego Costa to Stamford Bridge and brokering the return of Jose Mourinho.
But who is she and what do we know about her?
Rise to the top
"Remarkably little" is known about 39-year-old Granovskaia's background, writes Jonathan Prynn of the Standard. "She grew up in Moscow in the tumultuous Eighties and Nineties when Communism collapsed and was followed by the 'wild east' days of chaotic privatisation."
She attended the "exclusive" yet prosaically-named music and dancing academy School 1113, and joined Sibneft after graduating from Moscow State University with honours.
Granovskaia worked for Millhouse, Abramvoic's asset management company, and later became his personal adviser. She moved to London soon after he bought Chelsea in 2003. Her role at Chelsea has grown since 2010 and she joined the club's board of directors in 2013.
Power at the bridge
She began working at Chelsea under chief executive Gourlay, and her role as a conduit between Abramovic and the board increased her influence.
"As Gourlay started to turn his attention towards the commercial end of the business, Granovskaia became the pivotal figure in transfer and contract negotiations and a far more familiar face around Stamford Bridge," explains the Daily Mail.
She made her mark by negotiating the transfer of Fernando Torres from Liverpool to Chelsea in January 2011 "and has been involved in closing transfer deals and contract renegotiations ever since", says the Times. "She was responsible for interviewing Rafael Benitez when he was appointed as interim manager... and was also involved in securing Mourinho's return to the club last year. Towards the end of last season she pulled off two more crucial pieces of business for the club by signing Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid and ensuring John Terry signed a contract extension on the club's terms."
Now that Gourlay has gone "sources close to Chelsea are now convinced Granovskaia will be the club's new chief executive, even if she does not take on the title," says the Daily Telegraph.
Secrets of her success
Granovskaia keeps a low profile and that unlikely to change. "Granovskaia has never spoken publicly about Chelsea and is not likely to in the future despite her elevation," says the Times.
But she is "highly rated by many of the agents and club chief executives who have worked with her on transfers and contract negotiations", says the Telegraph, and even before Gourlay's departure she was being spoken of as the chief executive in everything but name.
She may not be an attention seeker but she is efficient. "Her style is perhaps best described as polite but firm, although there are stories that it went a little further than that during John Terry’s contract talks," says the Daily Mail. Some reports claim that she told the former England defender to "take it or f****** leave it".