Roman Abramovich's senior adviser Marina Granovskaia is to become the latest member of the Chelsea executive board, the club will announce today.
Granovskaia has been a key figure at the club since 2010, from when she has attended board meetings in an informal capacity, and the appointment means that she is now a member of the executive and club boards. It confirms the status of the Russian and Canadian national, who has worked for Abramovich across his business interests for 17 years, one of the most senior-placed women operating in English football.
The Russian-born Granovskaia began working for the Sibneft oil company, which Abramovich then owned, in 1997 when she graduated from Moscow State University. She moved to London in 2003 but only began working directly on Chelsea club matters in 2010. She has also worked closely with another Russian-Canadian close to Abramovich, the Chelsea director Eugene Tenenbaum.
Under her new appointment she will join the six existing members of the executive board, chairman Bruce Buck; chief executive Ron Gourlay; Tenenbaum; finance director Chris Alexander; club secretary David Barnard and company secretary Alan Shaw. The football club board, which she also joins, currently comprises Buck, Tenenbaum, Gourlay, Barnard and football operations director, Mike Forde.
It is widely accepted that while Abramovich is in regular contact with his executives at Chelsea, it is Granovskaia who has the most direct line to the club's Russian owner. She is capable of reaching the Russian billionaire quickly when the club need an immediate decision on key matters. Granovskaia played a key role in the signing of Fernando Torres at the end of the transfer window in January 2011.
The appointment of Granovskaia is not related to Jose Mourinho's return as manager and has been planned for some time by Chelsea. Mourinho said in his press conference on Monday that in terms of signing players - and the club announced yesterday they have agreed a fee for Germany international Andre Schürrle - it would be a collegiate effort along with the board.
Chelsea are understood to have negotiated a fee of around pnds19m with Bayer Leverkusen for Schürrle. The 22-year-old has been capped 24 times by his country at senior level and can play on either wing or behind the main striker, adding to Chelsea's strength in that area where they have Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard.
The pursuit of Schürrle by Chelsea has been longstanding and it was expected, even before the appointment of Mourinho, that the player would arrive this summer after attempts to bring him to the club last year and then in January failed. While Schürrle was a long-term target of technical director Michael Emenalo, his signing was also subject to the approval of Mourinho.
Schürrle will have a medical at the club today, although Chelsea will not include the Belgium international Kevin De Bruyne as part of the deal. The club are also expected to agree a deal for Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala this month; he is valued at around £20m. The most pressing concern remains the signing of a new striker.
The club have explored the potential of a move Wayne Rooney and Edinson Cavani, but both are fraught with high fees and the possibility of a protracted buying process that could stretch for the whole summer. The prospect of signing Rooney appeals to the club and to Mourinho but Manchester United's reluctance to sell to a domestic rival is the key obstacle.