Former Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia felt ‘physically threatened’ by agent Saif Alrubie

Marina Granovskaia arrives at Southwark Crown Court during trial of Saif Alrubie
Marina Granovskaia arrives at Southwark Crown Court where she spoke as a witness - PA/Jordan Pettitt

Marina Granovskaia has described how she felt “physically threatened” and had her personal security increased following an email from the football agent Saif Alrubie while giving evidence at his trial at Southwark Crown Court.

In her first public appearance since leaving her post as a “director in charge of football” at Chelsea almost two years ago and speaking about her work at the club for the first time, Granovskaia was called as a witness in Alrubie’s trial in which he is accused of sending what is alleged to have been a threatening email, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

The email sent by Alrubie, dated May 22, 2022, was in relation to Kurt Zouma’s move from Chelsea to West Ham United in August 2021 for £29.1million, £4.1m of which went to the defender as a severance payment, and Alrubie’s claim that he and his associates were owed £300,000 in commission.

Prosecutor Arizuna Asante read out the email from Alrubie to Granovskaia in court to the jury. In it, Alrubie said: “I was with Pini [Zahavi] in Dubai recently and he told me that you had agreed to paying me [and my two partners on that deal] 300K GPB for bringing you the offer from West Ham for Kurt Zouma. However Pini told me that you said you would pay me that money from other business in the future, hinting towards [Antonio] Rudiger.

“As you clearly know from the time I offered you a chance to extend the contract of Antonio by an extra year on the same salary and you refused and started playing games. You went to Sahr [Senesie, an agent of Rudiger] and started making up lies about me and HMRC regarding why you didn’t want to deal with me. That alone was defamatory and cost me a lot of business and trust due to your lies.”

The email added: “Then the way you have been with me was finally confirmed when I was in Abu Dhabi for the club World Cup when I went to visit Antonio and he told me that you had approached him questioning why he was friendly with me and was happy to deal with me. Who do you think you are, going to players in this way and talking rubbish about me? What have I done to you to make you so bitter and terrible towards me? So for that I will give you a chance to make things correct if you apologise for your behaviour towards me.

“If you don’t then I promise you I will make you pay for the way you have been with me on a personal and business level. This is not a threat so take it how you want. This is a promise that I give to anybody who f---s/tries to f--- me over in anything in life. I’m pretty sure you would never approach Lukaku and tell him why he is with [Federico] Pastorello [Romelu Lukaku’s former agent] your special friend.

“In summary you owe me and my partners 300k which needs to get paid ASAP. If Chelsea don’t pay it then that debt will be on you to pay. I am done trying to be nice to you. And feel free to go to your boss who’s had his recent problems and tell him that you have a big problem with me as long as you tell him the truth about your behaviour. Because in life you can’t be wrong and strong.

“I look forward to hearing from you on the above matters and hopefully have a swift solution to them otherwise I guess I will see you when I see you. I’m sure you’ve heard the story about your other friend Kia [Joorabchian] when he owed me money for a year and how he ended up paying it. Wouldn’t want you to be in the same situation just because you have a personal issue with me.’’

Saif Alrubie arrives at Southwark Crown Court where Marina Granovskaia was speaking
Saif Alrubie arrives at Southwark Crown Court - PA/Jordan Pettitt

Asked under oath how the email made her feel, Granovskaia replied: “Very uncomfortable would be an understatement. I felt physically threatened because of the language used and the fact it was being made personal, and referred to an incident involving Kia.”

Granovskaia later confirmed her personal security was increased following the email and added: “It made me feel very nervous and threatened that I might be faced with some people demanding some money from me. After I reported this issue my security arrangements changed.”

The jury were told by Mr Asante that agent Kia Joorabchian was allegedly confronted in a restaurant by people acting for Alrubie, who took his watch and refused to return it until payment was made later when approximately 12 men turned up at his office and ordered him to pay in bundles.

Asked by Mr Asante if she was aware of an incident involving Joorabchian, Granovskaia replied: “Yes, I remember hearing something about it.”

When it was put to Granovskaia that her knowledge of the incident made her feel threatened, she added: “That’s right.”

As well as describing her reaction to the email, Granovskaia explained how she moved from Moscow to London in 2004 after Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and started working in personal asset management and “back office administration” at Stamford Bridge.

Granovskaia told the court: “I was around a lot of what was going on and then he [Abramovich] started to ask about certain matters and my opinion. From commercial and catering to at some point match-day activity then player transfers and player activity.”

It was in 2010 that Granovskaia said she started acting for Abramovich on transfers, which resulted in her taking over that department, and she said: “Then it seemed to make sense to give me the official position [of director in charge of transfers] in 2012.

“Pretty much everything to do with football I was in charge of. Everyone to do with football reported to me, including medical, and I was responsible for the majority of player contracts, buying players and selling players.”

Under cross-examination by defence barrister Matthew Radstone, Granovskaia denied telling Zahavi she had agreed to pay Alrubie and his partners. She also denied bad-mouthing Alrubie to former Chelsea player Rudiger and disagreed with Radstone’s claim that she had turned down an attractive offer to extend the defender’s contract.

“It wasn’t [attractive],” said Granovskaia. “We weren’t interested in a one-year extension. I believe those conversations took place during discussions about Rudiger going out on loan a year or two prior. The proposal to extend one year and let him go on loan was not attractive as he would have come back [to Chelsea] with one year left on his contract.”

Asked about the nature of her relationships with Joorabchian and Pastorello, Granovskaia said both were “professional” and “friendship” and did not extend past that.

The case continues.

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