Since his appointment just months before the clubs first UWCL final, Lluis Cortes constantly pushed the limits of Barça Femení. He took the team to new levels, and reshaped the tactical landscape of women’s football. His sacking was just as shocking as the circumstances of his appointment. But Lluis leaves as a successful manager. Having won two league titles, two Copa de la Reina trophies, and the clubs inaugural UWCL.
Born in Lleida, Cortes spent one season as a player at UD Lleidia, before moving into coaching. He managed Catalan U12, U16 and U19 teams, and joined Barça as an analyst in 2017. Shortly after, he became an assistant coach under Fran Sanchez. After the sacking of Sanchez in January 2019, Lluis was appointed head coach, and began laying the foundations for his tactical revolution.
While classifying coaches as followers of specific systems or ideas is usually imperfect, Lluis Cortes is an exemption. A firm believer in the Cruyffian style of play that has defined modern Barça, his systems are very similar to that of Pep Guardiola during his four season stint at Barcelona. For example, his use of wide wingers to create space for a false nine, usually Jenni Hermoso. It is almost identical to Pep’s use of wingers to create space for Lionel Messi. His use of goalkeeper Sandra Panos to break lines vertically screams Total Football.
But at a club where he seemed so tactically secure, tensions between the club and Lluis has always existed. His sacking was a mere culmination of it. Since their devastating loss to Wolfsburg in the UWCL semifinal, his ability to manage in big matches came into question. And while he answered those doubts with the club’s treble winning season, the doubters were as prevalent as ever, even after his achievements with the side. He lies at a crossroads in football management. Managers need to create a working tactical system is vital, but so is the need for a unified dressing room. Now more than ever, coaches are being asked to unilaterally handle both.
While his time at the club was cut short due to a combination of existing locker room disputes and a feeling of revolution sweeping through the clubs offices. Lluis will leave the club as the greatest manager in club history, whose ambition and clear vision will define Barça Femení for years to come.