Adrian exclusive interview: Liverpool 'family', father figure Jurgen Klopp and West Ham memories

Adrian tells Sky Sports about the special spirit in Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool squad and the unique pressures of goalkeeping. Watch Liverpool vs Arsenal in the Carabao Cup fourth round live on Sky Sports Main Event HD from 7.30pm; Kick-off 7.45pm

Adrian top image for feature

Adrian, or Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, to give him his full name, claps his hands together and smiles broadly.

The Liverpool goalkeeper is speaking to Sky Sports by video call and has just been reminded he once bought this journalist a beer.

Well, sort of.

The story goes back to his first season in England, when he told a group of reporters the drinks would be on him if West Ham ended a four-game losing streak in their upcoming clash with Tottenham. He duly helped the Hammers to a 2-0 win at Upton Park and, true to his word, showed up at Sam Allardyce's next press conference with a crate of San Miguel beers under his arm.

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"You're welcome, you're welcome," he says with a chuckle as he remembers the incident, six years later.

"I promised I would do it, so I had to."

It was, at the time, a little glimpse of the affable personality that - coupled with his goalkeeping ability - had already made Adrian such a popular figure at West Ham. He would stay there for another five seasons having arrived from boyhood club Real Betis in 2013. He has since made a similarly positive impression at Liverpool.

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The 33-year-old was thrown in at the deep end following his arrival at Anfield on a free transfer last year, replacing the injured Alisson Becker midway through Liverpool's opening game of the season against Norwich, then saving Tammy Abraham's decisive penalty to help Jurgen Klopp's side beat Chelsea in the European Super Cup a few days later.

"The start was very… frenetic," he says, smiling again.

Adrian had barely even had a chance to train with his new team-mates before his unexpected debut but he stepped in ably. "He is a very confident guy," said Klopp afterwards.

Image: Adrian celebrates with the European Super Cup last year

It helped he had been made to feel so welcome in his new surroundings.

"I have only been here for a little over a year, but the truth is I have felt like a big part of the Red family ever since I arrived," says Adrian.

"Liverpool is a family club, despite being so big, and I think that's what makes it so magnificent. It's a brilliant dressing room. The club embraces you from the first moment."

Adrian has embraced the club too.

"When you arrive here, I think it is important to understand the philosophy and the history of Liverpool, both in footballing terms and in terms of its supporters," he says. "Once you start learning about that history, you begin to identify with the club. So, despite only being here for a short time, I feel like a part of that history too."

Adrian ended up filling in for Alisson for the opening two months of last season as the Brazil 'keeper recovered from a calf problem, helping his new side start what turned out to be an historic campaign in the way it would continue. He has played 19 games in total, of which Liverpool have won 14, drawn two and lost only three.

It is a decent record by anyone's standards.

Adrian celebrates Liverpool's Premier League triumph with Alisson and the club's goalkeeping department
Image: Adrian celebrates Liverpool's Premier League triumph with Alisson and the club's goalkeeping department

"The statistics are there and they never lie," he says. "Of course, I always try to give my best and help the team, but I have so many great team-mates in front of me, and that makes everything a lot easier.

"When I signed here, obviously I knew that this is a great team and there would be a lot of competition for places. I have Alisson as my team-mate and he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the moment.

"But I believe competition makes us all better. There is healthy competition in every position at this club. It can make things difficult for the míster, but he knows that every player who goes out on the pitch is going to give everything.

"My job, personally, is to be at the service of the team and be ready when the opportunities come up. But when Ali plays, I support him completely from the bench and he knows that.

"We have an extraordinary relationship as team-mates and that's the beautiful thing about football. The enjoyment of the job goes beyond starting every game."

Adrian's match-winning European Super Cup performance was the personal highlight of his first season on Merseyside but there were difficult moments too. Most notably, there was the botched clearance against Atletico Madrid that contributed to Liverpool's Champions League exit in March.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Goalkeeper Adri..n of Liverpool reacts after his mistake led to the first Atletico goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Liverpool FC and Atletico Madrid at Anfield on March 11, 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Visionhaus)

"The position of goalkeeper is unique," says Adrian. "It carries the most risk. You have the goalline only a few centimetres behind you and you know that, most of the time, your mistakes will lead to a goal for the opposition. You can be the hero or the villain at any moment.

"It's a lot of pressure, so you have to know how to deal with things when they don't go well, how to continue working and maintain concentration in order to recover the situation. As a goalkeeper, you have to have a different way about you, to be able to overcome obstacles and keep going."

Adrian and his Liverpool team-mates are fortunate to have a manager who offers them unwavering support even in difficult moments. "We will not blame him for a second," Klopp said of Adrian in the immediate aftermath of his costly error against Atletico Madrid last season. It was not the first time he has come out fighting for one of his players.

"To tell you the truth, he is like a father to all of us," says Adrian. "He is the captain of the ship, but not a captain from distance, a captain from the inside. He likes to be close to the players and, as you can see when he gives interviews and press conferences, he has a special character.

Adrian and Jurgen Klopp
Image: Jurgen Klopp has described Adrian as a "proper personality" in the dressing room

"He showed total trust in me from the start and that's why I signed here. I always felt I had his trust and I think every player who goes out to play for us feels the same as me."

Adrian's role at Liverpool extends beyond deputising for Alisson. He was signed, in part, because of his experience and character. Klopp has described him as a "proper personality" in the dressing room. He is respected by team-mates and coaches alike and is presently helping his countryman Thiago Alcantara settle in following his arrival from Bayern Munich.

"With my experience of the Premier League and being one of the oldest players in the dressing room, along with Milly [James Milner], I have to contribute many things," he says. "I can't only be thinking about playing or not playing. Supporting your team-mates is super important and that's something in the squad I try to help with."

Adrian did not feel valued in the same way after losing his place in the side during his final years at West Ham, but he remembers the good times fondly. Allardyce travelled to Spain personally to convince him to join them and it proved a worthwhile trip. Adrian only had a single season of first-team experience behind him at the time, but he adapted to the Premier League with ease.

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"Overall, it was a positive time," says Adrian. "It's not easy to leave your home and go to a new country and a new league, with another language, another culture, another style of play.

"A lot happened in my six years there and it wasn't all rosy. But I remember the positives. I hang on to the love of the fans and I will always respect West Ham as the first club to give me an opportunity in the Premier League.

"Like everything in life, it reached an end, but I didn't think of it as a goodbye, more as a see you later. Maybe we will see each other again in the future, but it was the right moment to take another step in my career."

The move to Liverpool was a dream come true for Adrian and materialised several weeks after he had reached the end of his contract with West Ham, but it did not come out of nowhere.

In fact, in different circumstances it might have happened several years earlier than it did.

Adrian made 150 appearances during his six seasons at West Ham
Image: Adrian made 150 appearances during his six seasons at West Ham

"Being sincere, I knew they had been following me for a while but there was never the right moment," he says.

"I had a contract at West Ham. There were times when I was playing and other times when it was difficult to leave and in the end Liverpool signed a different goalkeeper.

"That's football and that's life. But when I finished my contract at West Ham last year, I wanted to progress my career and I made the decision to wait for something interesting to come up. In the end, the best thing came up, the red shirt of Liverpool, so it was obviously the correct decision."

Adrian hopes to make his 20th appearance for Liverpool in Thursday's Carabao Cup fourth-round tie with Arsenal at Anfield, and having started late in his career - he was 25 when he made his first-team debut for Real Betis - he hopes there are many more still to come.

"For now, I am still thinking about the short-term, not my retirement," he says with a grin. "I am 33 and I feel in great shape. You have to be lucky with injuries and fitness, of course, but I am very happy at Liverpool and I am sure I am going to enjoy this job for a lot longer."

And Adrian, as we already know, has always been a man of his word.

Watch Liverpool vs Arsenal in the Carabao Cup fourth round live on Sky Sports Main Event HD from 7.30pm; Kick-off 7.45pm

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