Liverpool’s Adrián keen to make the most of his unexpected ascent | Football
It’s not quite up there with Watford’s Gary Plumley but when Adrián takes his place in goal for Liverpool in the European Super Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday night, he will have completed a rapid rise from training with a semi-professional team in his homeland just a few weeks ago as he tried to keep in shape.
Having run down his contract and left West Ham after six years in London, the 32-year-old goalkeeper who made more than 100 appearances for the club spent a fortnight in July at the less than salubrious surroundings of the Manuel Leonardo Ventura stadium, 30 kilometres west of Seville. Born and brought up in the Andalucian capital and having made his name with Real Betis, Adrián was keen to stay sharp and focused as his representatives sorted out his next move, even posting videos on social media of him training at the Unión Deportiva Pilas – who ply their trade in Primera Andaluza, the sixth tier of Spanish football.
“In gratitude for your hospitality and availability, I want to present UD Pilas club with this gift voucher for sports materials and equipment to continue growing,” he said in a handwritten note after his departure at the end of July. “Thank you so much for everything! I wish you all the best.”
Within five days, Adrián’s move to Anfield – on what is believed to be a two-year contract with an option for an additional season – had been confirmed by Liverpool after Simon Mignolet was allowed to join Club Brugge. The Belgium international did not play a single minute in the Premier League last season but his replacement did not have to wait long for his opportunity when Alisson limped out of the opening match of the season against Norwich last week with a calf injury.
“It’s all a bombshell,” Adrián admitted in an interview with Radio Marca last week. “I finished the season with my contract ending and knowing that I would have offers. But I didn’t think I would have any at this level. I never imagined being able to play for the European champions at all. The last season at West Ham was one of the worst, especially for contractual issues. In the end everything went well.”
Yet while Plumley – a wine bar manager from Wales who was parachuted into Graham Taylor’s team to face Tottenham in the 1987 FA Cup semi-final after untimely injuries to his two first-choice keepers – ended up buying himself a fridge after conceding four goals at Villa Park, Jürgen Klopp should have less cause to worry about his new recruit. Called up to the Spain squad in August 2016 by Julen Lopetegui, Adrián has still to win an international cap but was a popular figure at West Ham until he was replaced by Lukasz Fabianski last summer.
That his last appearance for Manuel Pellegrini’s side came in the 4-2 defeat against the League One side AFC Wimbledon at the start of January – one of five he made all season – could mean there is still some rustiness but, having had to wait until he was 25 for his La Liga debut at Betis after six years in the club’s reserve teams, the player who began his career as a striker for local side Altair is keen to make up for lost time.
“It’s always the same for a goalkeeper – you must seize the moment and stake your claim,” Adrián said in 2016. With Alisson set to miss at least the next few weeks including the trip to Southampton on Saturday and the home fixture with Chelsea seven days later, he will certainly get the opportunity.