A new era for Chelsea is firmly underway, and following the announcement of the club’s new board, there can be no doubting the future is starting to take shape. Within the statement announcing the changes was the revelation that Marina Granovskaia would depart the club.
The former Blues’ Director will remain available ‘to the Club for the duration of the current transfer window, to the extent required to support the transition’, as Todd Beohly assumes the role of interim-Sporting Director in addition to being the club’s Chairman.
The Blues owner has already taken on the task of managing Romelu Lukaku’s return to Inter Milan but now has the challenge of manufacturing a successful transfer window and building a relationship with Thomas Tuchel. Boehly will be tackling a new environment in European football, but the coming months could go some way to appreciating the challenge ahead for the permanent replacement he must appoint.
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One figure quickly linked to the role was Liverpool’s former Sporting Director, Michael Edwards. The 43-year-old has been credited with much of the Reds’ rise and their recent successes in the transfer market but announced in late 2021 that he would not see another summer transfer window at Anfield.
In an open letter to fans, he said: “I had always planned to cap my time at the club to a maximum of 10 years. I’ve loved working here, but I am a big believer in change. I think it’s good for the individual and, in a work setting, good for the employer, too. Over my time here, we have changed so many things (hopefully for the better), but someone new brings a different perspective and new ideas and can hopefully build on (or change) the things that have been put in place beforehand. That’s how I believe businesses/football clubs stay ahead; you need to evolve and at the heart of this kind of process is always people.”
There is certainly a great deal of change expected at Chelsea this summer, both on and off the pitch. With Boehly’s very public appreciations of Liverpool, it’s little wonder there seems to be some interesting.
Despite his prominence at Liverpool, Edwards has rarely spoken publically. In his brief forays into the limelight, some of his priorities and the kind of environment he hopes to work in can perhaps be taken away.
Edwards joined Liverpool in 2011 as head of performance and analysis and then became director of technical performance before becoming a technical director. As a result, he is entwined with the transfer success of Jurgen Klopp’s side, understandably so, but the club’s academy appeared equally important to him.
The transfer guru also had a significant role in developing Liverpool’s AXA Training Centre and was pleased to provide an environment that combines the first team and academy. A crucial facet for anyone at Chelsea, given what the Blues continue to produce at Cobham.
“Once you get to the new building, you haven’t ‘made it’. You are close, but you then need to earn the right to train on the first-team side as the building is split,” Edwards said.
“This is the last step and the most difficult one, but with Jurgen here and the culture of the owners, you will always have the opportunity to stake your claim if you work hard enough. Looking to the academy for solutions is something the club will always do.
“The fact that Jurgen can now stand on the balcony here and watch the U23s or U18s train or walk up to see a game or session outside of training means it can only strengthen relationships and maybe put someone on his radar even earlier than before.”
Whoever becomes sporting director, their relationship with Tuchel will be key. The German coach has relied upon his ties with Granovskaia and Petr Cech in the last 18 months and appreciated the support during a tumultuous season. Upon taking the job at Liverpool, Edwards’ words hint that it is a relationship that must work in both directions.
Edwards said in 2016: “Jürgen’s belief and confidence in what we have done is also welcomed and was a big factor in me making the decision to accept this position. It’s critical that we are always focused on development and improvement across all areas of the football operation. It’s an exciting challenge to be tasked with the responsibility of reviewing our practices and then implementing positive changes as and when they are needed. I know I’ll be supported by a brilliant group of people while doing this.”