Zsolt Lőw before the Chelsea-Wolverhampton match (Photo: Getty Images)

 

– Are you part of the special forces?
– Sometimes I feel I do, Zsolt Lőw, Chelsea's assistant coach to Thomas Tuchel smiled giving an exclusive interview for Nemzeti Sport on January 26. – It's like the TEK, or since it's England, the SAS deployed us on a special mission in London... It's often said life is the greatest director. Well, it's directed well now!

– To explain the first question: The Athletic characterized Thomas Tuchel's staff as a special division whose members jumped off a helicopter to the crisis zone two weeks ago.
– The crisis zone might be too harsh of an expression. However, the description is actually correct. After winning 4-0 with PSG against Strasbourg, we were told on the night of December 23 that they no longer are willing to work with us. Days later we reached an agreement with the club on the details of separation, so we became free to transfer. Despite all this, we calculated everything in the beginning of January. The only thing we didn't think about is that we would have to rack our brain on tactics and team building again at the end of the month. By the summer, I planned to make up as much as possible for what I had missed in my two and a half years at PSG. I took my eldest daughters to school, tennis lessons, horse riding lessons while bathing and playing with the youngest one. I was always with them and my wife, and I enjoyed every moment of it. We had been talking about where we wanted to travel for the spring when life flipped the script from one moment to the next.

– It seems London wasn't the no.1 destination.
– No doubt that London is a beautiful, colorful, and livable city. When my family comes after me, I'm sure we'll have a wonderful time here. It's painful to realize that it's still a long way away because of the pandemic. It's part of the story that we had a good time at Paris Saint Germain; we were at the highest level of football, but this resulted in a lot of constant stress and pressure. I felt that it would've been better to spend time with my family until the summer. At least I could've had time to think about the path I should take: shall I try myself as a head coach, or stay with Thomas or work with Ralf Rangnick again? But man plans, God laughs... As unexpectedly, it all happened just as quickly. We had to make a decision in a very short time. We couldn't even get over the “shock” Chelsea's offer caused us because we arrived in London on Tuesday afternoon, had an evening training, and the next day we sat on the home bench of Stamford Bridge for a League match against Wolverhampton.

– Would you still be living in Paris if Chelsea didn't knock on your door?
– Most likely yes. 

– Could you have said, “Thank you, but I'm not going to London”?
– Of course, I could've! I'm sure there would've been a job that I happily accepted in the summer. For some reason, though, I said, “Come one, let's do this!” But there was a voice around me whispering to take a break in the spring. The decision was made easier by the fact that we felt from the beginnings that our philosophy works well with Chelsea. This is a fantastic club! The squad is excellent, and it's a huge challenge to bring out the best of them. Not to mention that we play in the world's most powerful league against excellent teams and the greatest masters of the sport. The truth is that we couldn't find a reason to refuse the offer. The only difficulty was that we needed to take over the club mid-season from club icon Frank Lampard.

Chelsea's new assistant coach, Zsolt Lőw (Photo: Getty Images)

– It's known that you arrived in London without your families. It can be read in studies that in certain aspects it's not a disadvantage because you should focus solely on work. Is that a valid statement?
– Partially. When we accepted the offer, we knew that our family couldn't come with us. We can stay in the training facility day and night since only the hotel receptionist is the one who welcomes us at home. Nevertheless, we don't deny the fact we had and have difficult times. Because of the virus situation and the increasingly strict rules we don't know when we'll be able to see our loved ones. We believe and hope that it'll happen as soon as possible, but what we see right now is that every door is closing in front of us. I'm grateful I can do what has always accompanied my life so far, but in order to make the most out of it every day, I need to recharge myself which I get from my family. Coaches aren't machines either, we're also sentient people. Our profession is important to us, and so is success, and it's not new that it requires giving up on things. However, not everything is as laid-back as it might sound, and in the long term the current situation isn't sustainable for sure. We could say that these days we are fleeing to work, going forward, hoping that the world will be restored to its original state as soon as possible.

– I suppose the 10 points earned in the last four games are a type of cure.
– Yes, it does help with our mood that we're off to a good start. We see and feel that the team knows what they want. The footballers do their best and are open to our ideas. Thiago Silva was our player at PSG while I could work with Timo Werner at Leipzig, and we know Antonio Rüdiger and Kai Havertz from the Bundesliga. Probably the club also asked for their opinion on us, and since we're here, we assume they gave good statements about us...

– Have you found the common language?
– Because we speak both English and German, yes, we have. Communication is a lot easier here than at PSG. I'm always looking for an opportunity to talk to the footballers as much as I can. I really like this part of the job because I feel good when I can develop interpersonal relationships. The experiences tell me that we can help each other even more if we get into the so-called circle of trust known from Robert De Niro films. This, of course, requires both professional and human qualities. I consider myself a hardworking, honest, and open guy – someone who tries to start and end his days with a smile. I'm happy to give to others from what I have.

– Is Chelsea different from Paris Saint-Germain?
– England is a different country with different culture, league, and aspect. In London, we got even more than what we had expected. Chelsea is characterized by professionalism, and we are part of a consciously managed, well-built up team. We started the conversation with the jumping off the helicopter, and it should be added that when we landed, we realized that a perfectly functioning team awaited us. We know we have people to rely on.

– Have you met with club owner Roman Abramovich?
– Not yet because of the pandemic.

– I would've been curious to know how he welcomed you and what he expects from the two of you.
– It's not a secret that our goal is to finish in the top 4 at the end of the season because it is worth a Champions League ticket. When we arrived, we were seven points away from fourth place, now we're only a point away. In addition to performing better, one of the most important things is to stabilize the team while getting to know the club – most importantly the players and the colleagues – in the shortest period possible. We've met 60-70 new faces since we got here. I'm pleased to say that the first impressions are positive. The atmosphere is great, and it's a pleasure to work here. It gives all of us confidence that we've caught up with the top league in less than two weeks although there are some rivals who played fewer games than us. The schedule is tight; the competition is fierce. If we slip into the top four in the end, it would be a huge achievement – the good news is that now we have a chance to do so. In the meantime, let's not forget that we're still interested in the Champions League although the match against Atlético Madrid will be anything but easy. However, we're not looking for excuses because we knew where we were coming to. We came to a team that cares a lot about results and trophies. The point is that Chelsea has to fight everywhere to win the trophy awarded to the winner.

– This isn't new to you; you could've used to it in Paris.
– That's correct. We're not denying that it puts some pressure on us, but that's what top football is about. In other words: we're not here to enjoy ourselves, but to be successful. At the same time, I've told my wife that once this chapter ends, I'll surely rest for a year. So, I will take this opportunity to ask you to remind me of this when the time comes.

I'd love to, but a recent example shows that's not how it works.
– I know, but at least what I said sounded good...

Translated by Vanda Orosz