Thursday 23 November 2017

Roman Abramovich turns to 'the most powerful woman in football' to help Antonio Conte get Chelsea back on top

Matt Law

Roman Abramovich has entrusted his promise to help head coach Antonio Conte make Chelsea great again to club director Marina Granovskaia following her Nike coup.

Granovskaia underlined her status as the most successful and powerful woman in world football by negotiating Chelsea’s stunning club record kit deal with Nike that is worth £900million.

That sponsorship agreement delighted Abramovich, shocked Chelsea’s rivals, and boosted Granovskaia’s position as the Russian billionaire’s most trusted ally.

With the Nike deal under her belt, Granovskaia has been given the mandate to carry out Conte’s wishes and deliver the best possible squad capable of succeeding in the Premier League and in Europe.

Owner Abramovich is understood to have described the 5-0 victory over Everton that temporarily lifted Chelsea to the top of the Premier League, before they were replaced by Liverpool, as “world class” and was seen with a big grin on his face after the game.

Other than being thrilled with the work of Granovskaia, Abramovich is delighted with the way in which Conte has turned around Chelsea’s fortunes in the last six weeks. The work in the transfer market carried out by Conte, Granovskaia and technical director Michael Emenalo has paid dividends with N’Golo Kante, David Luiz, Marcos Alonso and Michy Batshuayi, albeit from the substitutes’ bench, all impressing.

Abramovich had become sick of wasting money on transfers and feeling ripped off by agents, but trusts the current set up to get it right and is prepared to back Conte with more big funds for January and next summer.

Granovskaia has already started negotiations with clubs and agents regarding potential signings, and has been fielding calls from interested parties in Chelsea players who may be available.

While West Ham United vice-chairman Karren Brady is well respected in football, Granovskaia is both widely respected and liked among club officials, agents and players which hands her an advantage in the transfer market.

One Chelsea player who is attracting interest from elsewhere is goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who is wanted by West Ham but may not be allowed to leave Stamford Bridge in January.

Begovic started all three of Chelsea’s League Cup games this season, but, with the club out of the competition, now faces a long spell on the substitutes’ bench behind Thibaut Courtois.

With the club possibly challenging for the title, letting Begovic go would still represent a big risk in case Courtois suffered injury, suspension or a loss of form.

Courtois has consistently been linked with a move back to Spain after spending three seasons at Atletico Madrid, but this week said: “I never had anything with Real Madrid. I did not see anything published, but I never had any contact with Real Madrid.

“I am happy at Chelsea. Everything is going very well - it is a great club. There is no reason not to be happy at Chelsea. You never know what will happen in the future, but at the moment I am very well, in a very good atmosphere.”

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