It’s clear to identify who the obvious heroes were for Chelsea in 2021.
Thomas Tuchel came in as new manager in January and fewer than six months later had delivered the Champions League trophy.
Midfielder Kai Havertz scored the only goal in the final victory over Manchester City, while N’Golo Kante’s incredible display in the midfield saw him pick up the man of the match award in Porto.
But in the supporting cast there is a name that certainly those outside of Stamford Bridge will not recognise who was every bit as influential towards helping the Blues land their second Champions League prize.
Hungarian coach Zsolt Low has quickly become a popular member of Thomas Tuchel’s staff
Low has formed a great relationship with Chelsea players and staff at Stamford Bridge
Meet Zsolt Low.
As assistant to Tuchel, he is providing a crucial link between the players and the manager and his recent joys with Chelsea have seen even those in his Hungarian homeland putting him on par with legends including the great Ferenc Puskas – and that’s no faint praise being compared to a Real Madrid giant.
Tuchel rates him highly having first worked with him at Paris Saint-Germain in 2018 after the Hungarian had previously been with RB Leipzig for three years following a similar time at Red Bull Salzburg.
While Tuchel prefers to keep a distance from his players to enable him to engage fully in his role of making key decisions, the German understands that his side still need an authoritative figure to report to with any concerning matters that he may need to be aware of.
His coaching achievements in the game have made him well known back in his Hungarian homeland to put him in the same breath as the great Ferenc Puskas
Low (right) previously won 28 caps for Hungary between 2002 and 2008 as a left-back
This is where Low comes in and his ability to connect with the playing staff on a human level has helped with the strong team spirit and positive mood around Stamford Bridge – along with his coaching abilities.
He typically engages in casual conversation with players as well as staff, showing a warm tactile nature and positive energy that can transition to cheerful hugs and high fives. Even administrative staff have taken to him at the Cobham training ground.
It’s not just small talk though where Low shines as he is quick to help build team camaraderie where he is happy playing jokes or being the victim of them and regularly joins in with post-training wind down games including foot tennis.
But it’s also important to understand he isn’t playing the role of class clown.
Low celebrates with Chelsea players after their Champions League final success in May
He can often be seen standing along with Tuchel on the touchline during Chelsea matches
He encourages players to approach him on personal matters whether it is concerning their own personal performance on the pitch and how they can improve or any situations involving life away from Stamford Bridge in a way they need to open up. It shows just how much trust many in the club have in Low on a variety of platforms.
Low can be seen over the shoulder of Tuchel on the touchline on matchdays as part of a backroom setup that includes another assistant in Arno Michels and a video analyst in Benny Weber.
‘If you’re spending 10 to 12 hours in each other’s company every day of the week, it’s essential you get on,’ Low told Hungarian based platform InfoRadio.
‘There is always a different division of labour in every coaching hierarchy, but we do a lot of things together: from planning training to taking the drills, speaking with the players, preparing and delivering team-talks and video analysis, match tactics and selection, even communication from the sidelines during games… what to change, whom to replace.
Pictured second left, he was part of Tuchel’s (centre) backroom team at Paris Saint-Germain
‘The dialogue between us all is constant. It never stops. I can’t break it down beyond that and say one person only does this, and another only does that. It’s a loose process in which everyone is involved.
‘We all trust each other. When Thomas took me on, he knew I’d been through a proper development at Red Bull in Austria and Germany. I’d worked for good coaches — Ralf Rangnick and Ralph Hasenhuttl.’
The Southampton boss will always be able to give him a good reference too.
‘Zsolt is a fantastic coach and person,’ Hasenhuttl said. ‘In the second year, before the end of the season, I knew he was going to leave in the summer (2018) to follow Thomas to Paris Saint-Germain. He wanted to work under a new manager whose football was a little bit more possession-orientated, to learn new things.
‘We had, in Leipzig at that moment, quite a one-dimensional way of playing football. Or, rather, the guidelines we followed were very one-dimensional. Thomas knew him from before (Mainz) and had seen how his football coaching had developed.’
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl has spoken highly of his former RB Leipzig assistant
Low has also worked alongside current Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick (centre)
Low explained in deeper detail his role away from the touchline on match days, stating he is keen on ensuring Chelsea stars are as comfortable off the pitch as they are on it.
Fluent in English and German, the former Hungarian international and Bundesliga star explained that despite his warm demeanour, he crucially still insists he has to keep a certain boundary to the players.
‘I like to know everything about them, not only on the pitch but off it, too, that’s one of the jobs of an assistant,’ he added.
‘The head coach has to stay slightly separate and maintain a bit of distance from the squad, so he can make bigger decisions for the good of the group. Even his assistants can’t get too close.
His jovial personality has made him a big hit with Chelsea stars on the training ground
‘We can’t be the players’ mates. It’s three steps distance to the head coach, and maybe one step to me and the other assistants.
‘But I can be more direct with the players. I can get to know them as individuals, to talk to them about their families, their lives. We often discover we actually have a lot in common.
‘Knowing them better helps you recognise if things are not right, and to smooth out any difficulties. Communication at Chelsea is a lot easier than at PSG. The language barrier is less of a problem.’
As Chelsea continue to march on in the Premier League and in Europe, Low is a reminder that it’s not always the stars directly in front of the TV cameras who are key to building a winning team – not least in west London.