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Better call Saul: Chelsea supremo Granovskaia hailed as Niguez capture solidifies Blues’ title challenge

Better call Saul: Chelsea supremo Granovskaia hailed as Niguez capture solidifies Blues’ title challenge
Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia has been hailed for another transfer market masterclass in a window in which the London club added key pieces to Thomas Tuchel's squad as the Blues look to close the gap on Manchester City.

Granovskaia, owner Roman Abramovich's right-hand woman at the Chelsea negotiation table, worked overtime as Tuesday's transfer window ticked shut, securing the on-loan capture of Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez to bolster the Blues' ranks and relieve pressure on the increasingly injury-prone trio of N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and newly-installed UEFA player of the year Jorginho.

Up front, Chelsea's goalscoring woes received a significant boost with the signing for a club record fee of £97.5 million ($134.1 million) of their former striker Romelu Lukaku, a player who appears to have come of age after two highly productive seasons in Serie A with Inter Milan.

On paper, these are signings which should strengthen the reigning Champions League winners' title credentials ahead of a Premier League season in which most of their main rivals have also bolstered their ranks – but as well as the new arrivals, Granovskaia and her negotiation prowess have earned plaudits courtesy of the fact that the club's outgoing sales have allowed the West Londoners to actually turn in a profit by stripping the squad of some of its deadwood. 

Several players from Chelsea's vaunted academy have been shipped out, with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori now plying their trade in Italy, while French international powerhouse defender Kurt Zouma now turns out for West Ham.

Fees were also secured for forgotten names such as Victor Moses and Davide Zappacosta.

In total, a sum of around £110 million ($151.3 million) was sourced through players sales and outgoing loans against the £108 million ($148.6 million) spent on securing Lukaku and the fee for borrowing Saul Niguez for a year – a quite remarkable fact when you consider the impact that Lukaku, especially, is expected to have on Chelsea's previously anaemic frontline.

There was one that got away, however. Jules Kounde, Sevilla's highly-rated young French defender, was a chief target, but Granovskaia held firm and refused to budge when the Spanish club attempted to squeeze some further millions from Abramovich's pockets after it looked like an agreement was near. 

Chelsea will likely pursue Kounde again in a future transfer window but the blow has been softened somewhat by the emergence of a yet another academy graduate, Trevoh Chalobah, who has looked impressive in cameo appearances. 

Granovskaia's tenacity in the transfer market is nothing new. Since the start of the 2017 season, Chelsea have spent a total of £793 million ($1.1 billion) and recouped £554 million ($762.2 million) during the same period – a net transfer outlay which dwarfs that of any of their Premier League rivals

For Chelsea, the future is looking rosy. They are an exceptionally well-run club and, in Thomas Tuchel, they have one of the most promising young managers in the world who has already delivered Europe's greatest prize to the club just months after he was drafted in to arrest the decline which was becoming apparent under the stewardship of former boss Frank Lampard.

Several of their rivals – most notably Manchester United – have also added further ballast to their ranks, which should lead to the most competitive Premier League title chase in years. Chelsea, who finished fourth in each of the past two seasons, are looking like the hot hand in the opening weeks of the season.

Tuchel's side are already a better outfit than they were just months ago, and Chelsea have the steady influence of Marina Granovskaia to thank for re-establishing them as one of the continent's elite clubs. 

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