Who could replace Lukaku at Chelsea?
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Marina Granovskaia is set to follow Bruce Buck in leaving Chelsea as Todd Boehly instigates major changes behind the scenes at the club. Boehly’s consortium completed his takeover from Roman Abramovich last month and is now clearing house in the boardroom at Stamford Bridge.
American lawyer Buck is to step down as chairman – a role he’s held since 2003 – to become an advisor at the end of June. Granovskaia, who has been a key player at Chelsea in the latter years of the Abramovich era, is also poised to leave the club she has effectively run for the past few years.
Granovskaia has been a close ally of Abramovich for over 20 years. The 47-year-old Canadian-Russian met Abramovich in 1997 when she worked for a Russian oil company Sibneft. She became a director at Chelsea in 2013 and has gradually become more and more influential in decision-making at the club.
She has developed a reputation for being a shrewd negotiator in transfer negotiations and for not suffering fools in the boardroom. That was officially recognised in December when Granovskaia was named as the best club director in European football at the Golden Boy awards.
However, for all the decent pieces of business and unseen work behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge, there have also been some obvious missteps by Granovskaia, who has led Chelsea’s transfer strategy in recent years. She will therefore depart the club with her overall reputation tainted slightly by some recent poor decisions. Here are four of them from the recent past.
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The obvious and the most costly. Chelsea sold Lukaku to Everton for £28million back in July 2014 – a year after Granovskaia became a club director. The Belgian hadn’t been given much of a chance with the Blues, but performed well on loan with West Brom and Everton and was cashed in on.
Chelsea soldiered on, going through some questionable striker purchases – Alvaro Morata and Michy Batshuayi among them – before deciding the right thing to do was to break their transfer record for Lukaku. The club shelled out a whopping £97.5m fee to land him last summer from Inter Milan, but he never fit the Thomas Tuchel playing style.
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Inter are now in negotiations to take him back on loan, but won’t pay his full £325,000-a-week wages or the £10m loan fee Chelsea want. Granovskaia has to carry the can for this monumental failure of a transfer, while she also signed off on the expensive additions of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner – neither of which are yet to fully pay off.
Part of the money for the Lukaku deal came from the £34m sale of Abraham to Roma. At the time there were murmurings that Granovskaia had done well to get such a transfer fee for a back-up striker, but a season on it now appears like Roma were the ones who got a bargain.
Abraham enjoyed a wonderful debut campaign in the Italian capital, scoring 17 in Serie A and 27 across all competitions to help Jose Mourinho’s side win the Europa Conference League. In short, he looks exactly like the kind of striker Chelsea could do with.
Another player flogged to Italy in order to free up funds for new additions. Tomori was sold to AC Milan for £25m last summer and has immediately established himself as a stalwart of their defence. The 24-year-old enjoyed a perfect campaign, winning Serie A and earning himself a recall to the England squad ahead of the World Cup later this year.
What has made matters even worse for Chelsea is that they are now shopping for two centre-backs this summer following the departures on free transfers of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.
Lukaku wasn’t the only dud signings last summer. Saul was a much less expensive mistake, but has nevertheless proven a pointless addition to Tuchel’s squad. The Spanish midfielder was taken on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid but looked like a square peg in a round hole all season. He was at best a bit-part player and did not impress much when he played in central midfield, or at left wing-back.
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