AJust a week ago, Marina Granovskaia told football personalities that she had not decided to continue working for the new owners of Chelsea. Granovskaia was more active than ever in discussions with agents about potential signings and, despite the director’s longstanding ties to Roman Abramovich, there was a sense that any announcement about his future would be unlikely until the end of the transfer window.
Everything changed on Monday morning. First came the announcement that Bruce Buck, another associate of Abramovich, had agreed to step down as chairman. Then, in a development that took quite a few people by surprise, it emerged that Granovskaia would indeed be the next top-flight start. Ties with the previous regime were severed and, although there were initially suggestions that Granovskaia would keep her job until the end of August, at the end of the day, several sources expected her to leave. before the end of the week.
After all, why stick around? When Internazionale opened talks to sign Romelu Lukaku on loan last week, it was Todd Boehly who was leading the negotiations on Chelsea’s behalf. Boehly, Chelsea’s new co-owner, has been active since taking over his consortium and, in a notable change to the way business was often done under Granovskaia’s watch, the American soon entered talks with the Inter, with an agreement on the terms of Lukaku’s loan was reached on Tuesday evening.
There was no attempt at a face-saving exercise. Granovskaia, not Boehly, was responsible for spending £97.5million on Lukaku last summer. The logic was simple: Lukaku wanted out after a disastrous season and Thomas Tuchel was never going to stand in the way of the striker, so Boehly backed his head coach and struck a deal that should allow Chelsea to focus on building of a team capable of challenging for top honors next season.
At the moment, however, the idea of Chelsea catching Manchester City and Liverpool in a single window seems unlikely. There are holes to fill in defense, improvements needed in attack and little time to act before the start of the season. Tuchel, who gets on well with Granovskaia, could make the players arrive sooner rather than later.
This means that the spotlight is already on Boehly and his co-owners. On Wednesday morning, it was confirmed that Granovskaia, who was handling player transfers and contracts, was leaving. A club statement revealing new board figures said Granovskaia would offer assistance for the duration of this transfer window – “to the extent necessary to support the transition” – and said Boehly, who has no no experience of the inner workings of European football, would act as Chelsea’s interim sporting director until a full-time replacement is found.
Talk about jumping into the deep end. “Boehly clearly believes in himself and he’s obviously a very smart man,” said a personality with intimate knowledge of the transfer market. “But football is unlike any other business.”
It’s a fair comment. The intention remains for Chelsea to find a sporting director – Andrea Berta could be a good fit if he can be lured from Atlético Madrid and there have been links with Michael Edwards, who is leaving Liverpool – but the situation does not is not ideal. Boehly is learning on the job and, apart from hitting Tuchel’s targets, he also has to confer with Petr Cech to provide the technical and performance advisor with assurances on his role.
Cech can be forgiven if he thinks about his future. Still, Boehly has to avoid too many complications in one summer. Chelsea have not challenged for the title since 2017 and are trailing behind City, who bought Erling Haaland, and Liverpool, who replaced Sadio Mané with Darwin Núñez.
City and Liverpool, unlike Chelsea, were able to quickly conduct their main business. There are no glaring weaknesses in their squads, although City remain keen to bring in a left-back and extra cover in midfield. They have both recruited efficiently and Chelsea, who must also be wary of Tottenham’s moves under Antonio Conte, have plenty of ground to make up for.
The change in ownership offers the west London club a chance to adopt a more considered recruitment model. Tuchel’s workforce is not in his image. While City and Liverpool have tended to buy fit players for Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp respectively, Chelsea have been more scattered. They spent a lot of money, but is there a football identity? A clear style of play? Or did Tuchel simply use his tactical expertise to get the most out of a talented but imbalanced group?
Boehly can introduce a different approach. He can support Tuchel and make him as powerful as Guardiola and Klopp. He can ditch the ruthless short-term culture that has gradually transformed Chelsea into a highly effective team.
However, there is so much to do this summer. Chelsea cannot enter the season with their centre-back options of Thiago Silva, who turns 38 in September, and the inexperienced trio of Malang Sarr, Levi Colwill and Trevoh Chalobah, especially if César Azpilicueta is allowed to join. Barcelona. A situation that could have been avoided by clinging to Marc Guéhi or Fikayo Tomori last summer, given that Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger were reducing their contracts, must be dealt with quickly; interest in defenders such as Sevilla’s Jules Koundé and RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol must be tapped.
Chelsea must be decisive. In midfield, they need to consider whether to move N’Golo Kanté or Jorginho, both out of contract next year, and bring in a younger alternative. In attack, they must try to attract valid offers for inconsistent players such as Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.
A lack of ruthlessness has been an issue under Tuchel, whose attacking issues weren’t just down to Lukaku. The manager wants to sharpen up in the final third. He pursues City’s Raheem Sterling, whose stats are impressive, and likes Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembélé, who is interested in joining Chelsea for free. Everton’s Richarlison and Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku are other targets, and Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski would be a dream signing for Tuchel.
However, Lewandowski favors Barcelona and is heavily chased by Paris Saint-Germain. Reachable forwards are rare, especially with Haaland at City, Núñez at Liverpool and Harry Kane out of reach at Spurs. Chelsea may be forced to compromise and, after trying Lukaku as a target, there is a feeling that Tuchel could switch to a more nimble attack, with Kai Havertz continuing to function as a false 9 and creative players buzzing around the German .
It could work. It could make Chelsea more unpredictable and exciting. Or, given that City and Liverpool have just signed glamorous No.9s, it could leave Tuchel’s side short of reliable finishers. The problem, ultimately, is that there are so many unknowns at the club. It’s been a dizzying few months and the pieces are still falling into place. It’s time to get to work.