A football agent implied the threat of physical intimidation in an email to a former Chelsea director, demanding payment over the transfer of Kurt Zouma to West Ham, a court has heard.

Saif Alrubie, 45, who said he played a part in facilitating the transfer of the French defender in August 2021 for about £29 million, is said to have considered he was owed a percentage of the transfer amount and demanded payment from Marina Granovskaia, 49.

In an email, the defendant allegedly implied that the then Chelsea director of football might “suffer the fate” of another agent, Kia Joorabchian, who claims he was accosted and intimidated by men demanding payment on behalf of Alrubie.

Marina Granovskai arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London
Marina Granovskaia arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Prosecutors allege Alrubie, of Fulham, west London, sent the “threatening” email to Ms Granovskaia on May 22 2022. The defendant denies the charge of sending an electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety.

Opening his trial at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday, prosecutor Arizuna Asante told jurors that Alrubie had “nothing at all to do with the deal” and had “no right to or credible expectation to” benefit from the transfer.

Mr Asante said: “It is then alleged that Mr Alrubie sent Ms Granovskaia an email threatening her on May 22 2022 that if the money was not paid, that is his commission, that she might suffer the fate of someone called Kia Joorabchian, who owed him money and did not pay in time.

“He (Mr Joorabchian) was allegedly accosted in a restaurant, an expensive watch taken from him, and thereafter in his office confronted by about a dozen men all at one time, effectively intimidating him into handing over bundles of cash in intervals until the money that was owed was paid off.”

Giving evidence, Ms Granovskaia told jurors: “I felt threatened. Physically threatened.

“Because of the language that was being used, because of the fact it was being made personal and because he referred to Kia’s incident.”

She added: “It made me very nervous. It made me worried. It made me feel threatened, that I might be faced with some people demanding money off me.”

The prosecutor said Ms Granovskaia previously told Alrubie that if Mr Zouma sold for more than 30 million euros he would get a commission, but the prosecution told jurors there was “nothing binding” about those exchanges because it was “pre contract”.

When the sale occurred a “deal sheet” was created, on which the defendant was not identified as an intermediary, and which contained a declaration signed by Mr Zouma, the jury heard.

Kurt Zouma
Kurt Zouma (Steven Paston/PA)

The court heard Ms Granovskaia sent an email to Alrubie on August 25 2021, saying she had not considered he was working as an agent of Chelsea and that when she referred to commission being paid, that was contingent on him being involved in the transfer deal, which the prosecution say he was not.

It is alleged that Alrubie sent an email to Ms Granovskaia on May 22 2022, saying he and his partners are owed £300,000, before continuing: “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.”

He added: “I’m sure you’ve heard the story about your other friend Kia 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.”

Earlier in the same email, the court heard Alrubie accused Ms Granovskaia of “making up lies” about him, which cost him “a lot of business and trust” and described an incident in which he found out she had asked footballer Antonio Rudiger why he was happy to deal with the defendant.

“Who do you think you are going to players in this way and talking rubbish about me?” jurors heard he wrote.

“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****/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 (his agent) Pastorello your special friend.”

Saif Alrubie arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London
Saif Alrubie arriving at Southwark Crown Court (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

During cross-examination, Ms Granovskaia denied telling lies about Alrubie to others and said she does not recall speaking in negative terms about him to Mr Rudiger.

She also denied cutting Alrubie out of the deal over Mr Zouma.

Asked if she was aware at the time of receiving the email of anything in relation to an incident involving Mr Joorabchian, she said: “I have been told by Kia in the past that there was some people demanding in unsavoury ways money off Kia and there was some restaurant-related incident where he was cornered and I had vague recollections of that.”

The prosecutor said: “The defendant’s reference to Mr Kia Joorabchian connotes the threat of physical intimidation.”

He added that there was “absolutely no threat of legal action in this case”.

Ms Granovskaia left Chelsea in 2022 after almost 20 years at Stamford Bridge, where she rose to prominence as one of the toughest negotiators in football in Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea reign.

Her departure came after US billionaire Todd Boehly’s sports franchise’s record £4.25 billion purchase of the club after the UK Government sanctions placed on Mr Abramovich.

The trial continues on Wednesday.