Chelsea could end up spending well over £100m on new signings this summer, with a new centre-back, full-back, midfielder and centre-forward already on coach Thomas Tuchel’s priority acquisition list. but the biggest problem facing the Premier League the club’s new American owners cannot be solved by any type of transfer fee. By confirming the departure of senior manager Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea have created a vacancy which may prove impossible to fill.
What happens on the pitch and the players who dictate whether a team succeeds or fails tend to dominate the attention of fans and the media, but there are times when key changes in the boardroom have far more weight than the transfer of a star player. . Granovskaia’s exit from Stamford Bridge is the most significant change among football’s power brokers since David Gill left as Manchester United chief executive in 2013.
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United are still trying to recover from the double loss to Gill and manager Sir Alex Ferguson nine years ago. While Ferguson’s retirement was undoubtedly the most seismic event at Old Trafford in the past 30 years, Gill also proved irreplaceable as a calm, experienced and well-connected figure who ran off-field operations of the club and presided over transfer transactions and contracts. negotiations. The brain drain suffered by United in 2013 led to a chaotic transition period under Gill’s successor, Ed Woodward, and the club remains in a state of flux nearly a decade later.
Chelsea’s summer of change is different from that suffered by United in 2013, but the club nonetheless face an uncertain future. The new regime, led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly, would be well advised to learn from United’s mistakes as they chart their way away from the Roman Abramovich era.
While United have lost their greatest manager and a highly respected chief executive, Chelsea must move on without the man whose billions turned the club into serial winners and two-time European champions, and the woman who wielded enormous influence at Stamford Bridge for more than a decade. and was credited with making Chelsea one of the best managed clubs in the world, on and off the pitch.
Boehly and his partners face the challenge of proving Chelsea can enjoy continued success without the benefit of Abramovich’s personal fortune – the Russian oligarch covered losses that amounted to more than £900,000 a week over the course of his 19 years as an owner – but they are wealthy and shrewd enough to know how to make a football club successful as a sustainable business venture. Part of that involves making sure they have the right person in place to oversee football operations – player recruitment, transfers and contracts – which Granovskaia has handled so well, particularly since his promotion to general manager in 2014.
Chelsea got off to a promising start by announcing that Granovskaia will remain available to Boehly throughout the summer transfer window to advise on negotiations, and sources have told ESPN that the club are keen on signing Michael Edwards, who is leaving his role as sporting director of Liverpool. this month, to lead the new football department at Stamford Bridge.
But just as United and Woodward didn’t know Gill’s true worth until he left the club, Chelsea are also likely to find that losing Granovskaia will mean more than just leaving a boardroom suit. Sources have told ESPN that several players’ agents, in particular, are eager to find out what Chelsea do next. Perhaps this concern is rooted in self-interest and fear of the unknown, as many had built a relationship with Granovskaia that allowed them to negotiate knowing who they were dealing with and how those negotiations would progress.
Some clubs only deal with a small number of preferred agents, and some owners new to the Premier League in the past have relied on a single agent to manage their recruitment operation in the early years of their ownership. Chelsea are unlikely to repeat the kind of mistake made by the likes of Portsmouth, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City (before the Sheikh Mansour takeover in 2008), but once they lose the acquaintances and connections of Granovskaia, they will be vulnerable to others taking advantage. of their inexperience.
When Woodward replaced Gill he had little knowledge of the world of football having worked in United’s banking and commercial department before his promotion to the top job, and he has since admitted he made too many mistakes learning the tricks of the trade. These mistakes cost United millions in poor signing and contract decisions, while the club was also exploited by players, agents and rival teams when it came to raising their own valuations. and pay deals just by using United to their own advantage.
Enlisting Granovskaia’s help for the rest of this transfer window, Boehly, who has taken on the role of interim sporting director, at least acknowledged that neither he nor his associates have the knowledge of the football industry yet. football to go it alone this summer. But with Granovskaia gone for good, Chelsea must find the right answer. Edwards would come with a proven track record and be as close to a replacement for Granovskaia as possible, but her role at Liverpool lacked the same level of authority and oversight as that wielded by someone often described as the woman most powerful in football, so there would still be some gaps for Chelsea to fill.
United failed to replace Gill, but at least their mismanagement gave Chelsea a case study in how not to do so with Granovskaia.