INTERVIEW: LLUIS CORTÉS
RISE TO THE OCCASION
Lluis Cortés only became Barcelona coach in January, but already he has guided the club to its first UEFA Women’s Champions League final. Though Olympique Lyonnais may start as favourites he believes his side are more than capable of surprising the five-time champions
What was it like to make the step up to Barcelona coach this season?
It’s been a very important change for me. Before, I was an assistant and had a position within the coaching staff. I worked with the team
and the players but it’s different being the one who is entirely responsible. It’s been a great role change, everyone has helped me a lot and I think that has made the transition a lot easier.
How was it for the players? Did you have to gain their trust?
Luckily I have known a lot of the players for years. I have worked with some of them since they were 11 or 12 years old. That made it a lot easier and, of course, I was the assistant before. But now I’m the coach and the one who makes the decisions. Some will be popular, others not so much.
What have you contributed to the team to help them reach the final?
The team has been doing a great job, not just tactically but at all conceptual levels of the game. We’ve been capable of dealing with the emotional side, which has allowed the players to feel freer and have more confidence to develop their game. I think when we go out to play we need to have well-defined core ideas, which is what I try to communicate with the players. I also try to include and integrate players from outside but, above all, [I try to] help them to work on the emotional side. This allows them to take a step forward to improve.
Will the players be confident against a very good Olympique Lyonnais team?
We’re playing against a team who have a higher budget than us and they have the best players in every position, so I think we need to work on the team’s confidence because that is what has brought us to this point. We need to focus on our game, on what makes us strong and what we did against Bayern München [in the semi-finals]. From that, we can reinforce our players’ confidence because from the outside looking into our environment, we feel smaller than Lyon, so we need to smooth that out and make ourselves big, to put on a brave and daring performance in order to compete in this final.
Given the fact that current holders Lyonnais are so well known, will that help in any way?
We know our rivals very well so, of course, leading up to the game, we’ll be discussing them, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses and where we can hurt them. We know a lot about their players. They’ve had the same coach for years, they’ve been playing for years at the highest level with a group of similar players and last year we competed against them [in the quarter-finals]. I think we learnt that they are mortal, that they are players who you can compete against.
What would you say have been your team’s strengths in the competition to date?
I think the key has been not to concede goals. In the last round we managed not to concede any goals. That doesn’t mean that we just set out to defend. I think attacking is the best form of defence. We’ve had games with long periods of possession – that is typical for us – and then we’ve attacked
in the final third and had lots of shots on target. I think this team also does well when it’s faced with tough challenges. We have a group of players who hear the words “Champions League” and that gives them a boost, so they are capable of giving just a bit more than in a normal match.
So it’s very similar to the Barcelona men’s DNA?
That’s right. In the end, that’s our club. It would be very difficult to play any other way. The coaches believe in it and we need to sign players who we believe are capable of buying into it. I think one of the club’s strengths is its style of play. Our style is something we can’t sacrifice. We need to be aware of that and keep aiming to win trophies while remaining true to our style of play.
What would it mean both for the team and you personally to win the competition this season?
It would be a dream come true. It would be a very big deal. We put a lot of hours into this; not only the players but also the members of staff. We all take time away from our families, our partners, and we dedicate a lot of time to this club. To be able to finish the season winning the Champions League would be a great prize and great recognition of all the work and time we’ve put into this club.