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Is Chelsea board member Marina Granovskaia the new face of Vitesse?

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports that Granovskaia will be taking a large role in Vitesse's business operations.

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At first glance, it seems like Merab Jordania quietly "sold" Vitesse Arnhem two weeks ago. In reality, however, the club's real owner, Alexander Chigirinsky, merely decided it was time to step out from behind the thinly veiled curtain.

As I will discuss (at extraordinary length) in a forthcoming feature on the Chelsea-Vitesse partnership, Merab Jordania was nothing more than a "caretaker owner." The Dutch media has been speculating for years that Jordania's 2010 purchase of the club was likely bankrolled by Alexander Chigirinsky, a Russian oligarch and longtime friend and business partner of Roman Abramovich (Interestingly, Chigirinsky's older brother waged an ultimately unsuccessful six-year legal battle with Abramovich, in which he sought billions of sterling pounds in damages stemming from allegations of share liquidation dating back to before Abramovich purchased our beloved football club. I find it a bit odd that Abramovich would retain a close personal and business relationship with the younger Chigirinsky, but then again, I am not attuned to the subtle nuances of the social dynamics employed by Russian billionaires). As it turns out, their suspicions were spot on, as Chigirinsky is now officially the owner of Chelsea B Vitesse.

Jordania was always a curious (some, including myself, would substitute "curious" with "exceptionally poor") choice to be the point man with regards to Vitesse, a position he likely ascended to by virtue of his longtime friendships with both Abramovich and Chigirinsky (again, this will be discussed in detail in a forthcoming feature). While Jordania will remain with the club in some capacity (he does have quite a bit of experience running a football organisation, having risen through the front office ranks at Dinamo Tbilisi before being tapped to run the Georgian Football Federation. He even stepped in to manage the national team for three matches during the 2004 Euro qualifiers), it appears as though Vitesse will be receiving a significant upgrade in Marina Granovskaia.

Granovskaia is largely unknown to Chelsea supporters, but she is likely the most powerful woman in football. Since 2010, she has been given increasing amounts of responsibility at Chelsea and now appears to be Abramovich's right hand. According to her brief biography on Chelsea's website, Granovskaia has been working for Roman Abramovich since she graduated with honours from Moscow State University in 1997. Starting at Sibneft, she has also held positions at Abramovich's assset management firm, Millhouse, and, of course, Chelsea. Before being elevated to the board in June 2013, she had served as Abramovich's de facto representative in board meetings and in transfer deals when Abramovich himself was unavailable.

While her exact role in transfer deals has only been speculated upon by the media, it appears as though she handles the finances of potential transfers at the highest level, while Michael Emenalo handles the scouting, tactical assessments and (along with Mourinho) the footballing needs of the club at the highest level. Put simply, it seems fair to say that if Granovskaia does not control the purse strings at Chelsea, she at least has a firm grasp on them (The Telegraph goes as far as to ask whether it is Granovskaia that deserves the moniker of "The Special One" over Mourinho. I think we can emphatically answer "no" to that, but she is an extremely important figure within the club).

Despite the burgeoning legend of Lucas Piazon and the consistently productive Patrick van Aanholt, among several others, it is Granovskaia that is likely to prove the most fruitful loan for the Eredivisie club. The front office experience that Granovskaia will bring to Vitesse is nothing short of a coup for the Arnhem side. De Telegraaf reports that Vitesse CEO Joost de Wit, technical director Mo Allach, and commercial director Peter Gansler will all be taking direction from Granovskaia on business matters (such as marketing). The trio already takes regular direction from Michael Emenalo with regards to footballing issues, but it appears that Granovskaia will be considerably more involved in the day to day operations at Vitesse than any Chelsea employee has ever been.

There will be much more on the cast of characters involved and the full extent of the Chelsea-Vitesse partnership here at WAGNH in the coming weeks, and thanks is due to Dutch Chelsea supporter Mark Will Stinson for bringing De Telegraaf article to my attention.

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