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I played for and against Jurgen’s Liverpool – it is “really, really special”

As somebody who has both played for and against Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool, Adrian is uniquely placed to look back on the German’s eight-and-a-half years at Anfield.

The Spanish goalkeeper first lined up against Klopp’s Liverpool in January 2016, a match that, just three months into Klopp’s tenure, served as an introduction to English football as West Ham ran out 2-0 winners at Upton Park.

But it was at Anfield in the following two seasons that Adrian witnessed Klopp’s new team emerging, with 4-0 and 4-1 wins for Liverpool against West Ham.

Each of those games featured two goals for the Reds in quick succession. “[It was] painful! Really painful, to be honest,” Adrian recalls. “Every time we played here against Liverpool at Anfield, we suffered a lot.

“Anfield, you know how it is. I know how exactly you feel it [the atmosphere] when you concede a goal at Anfield. [Conceding] a quick goal in the first 20 minutes, you’re expecting a second and a third goal quick because that team never stops.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 24, 2018: West Ham United's goalkeeper Adrian San Miguel del Castillo reacts as Liverpool's Emre Can scores the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Adrian‘s last game against Liverpool saw the Reds’ new fearsome trio of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino all on target.

“In that moment I could not imagine in a couple of seasons I would come here and start enjoying the other way,” he tells This Is Anfield.

“The philosophy of Jurgen, his style of play, is really, really special.”

 

A dream debut – the best ever?!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, August 9, 2019: Liverpool's goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo applauds the supporters after the opening FA Premier League match of the season between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A year later, though, Adrian was making a summer move to Merseyside as a replacement for the outgoing Simon Mignolet.

“Obviously I want to win titles [trophies]”, he said at his unveiling. It didn’t take long – just nine days later winning the first trophy of his career in some style!

Signed on August 5, Adrian‘s debut arrived quicker than expected just four days later when Alisson was injured in the opening game against Norwich.

“When I first started feeling the Kop was when I made my debut against Norwich,” says the Sevilla-born stopper.

“That welcome and reception that all the fans gave me, that moment when I was running for the goal in front of the Kop, I will remember forever. As a player you feel the confidence and you feel support of everyone in that moment.

“From that moment on, my special relationship with the club started.”

But things were about to get even better in his full debut – not just lifting a trophy for the club but playing the most crucial part by saving Tammy Abraham’s penalty in the shootout to lift the UEFA Super Cup.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - Wednesday, August 14, 2019: Liverpool's goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo celebrates with the trophy after his save in the shoot-out won the Super Cup after the UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Besiktas Park. Liverpool won 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“When the time passes and maybe we see each other in 15, 20 years, we will remember all these moments, they will last forever,” he smiles. “They will stay in the history of the club.”

It was quite the way to win the first trophy of Adrian‘s career – just nine days after signing for Liverpool FC.

“It was a long game, a really intense one,” he remembers. “Really special for me, I will remember it for all my life. That celebration when I saved that penalty and Jurgen and all my teammates came to me. A week before I just arrived at Liverpool so I was just trying to get confident. That moment was key.”

Those celebrations also provided supporters with another memorable Klopp moment as the manager channelled his love for Rocky Balboa and exclaimed “ADRIAN! Like Rocky!” in an interview with BT Sport post-match.

 

Champions of the World and demolishing Leicester

DOHA, QATAR - Saturday, December 21, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson lifts FIFA Club World Cup trophy after the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 Final match between CR Flamengo and Liverpool FC at the Khalifa Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by Peter Powell/Propaganda)

Next in the trophy cabinet for Adrian and Liverpool was the FIFA Club World Cup, won for the first time in the Reds’ history in December 2019, in Qatar, after beating Brazilian side Flamengo in the final.

“It’s a massive title (trophy),” says Adrian. “It’s so difficult to get that successful period in that short time; the club’s history is so big but to get that many titles in a row, Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup.

“It was a special one. I remember that Bobby goal, I was running like hell to him to the corner to celebrate that goal!”

That final took place on December 21, 3,500 miles away from the Reds’ next game, against second-placed Leicester just five days later.

“Many people were talking about us celebrating but the celebrations were very light, in the hotel after the game it was a nice meal and a couple of glasses of wine but not much because we knew we had to carry on with the Premier League.

“That game against Leicester was key. If the team would switch off quick. That performance against Leicester was incredible, we showed that mentality monster; ‘we are here, we are going to try to win all the competitions’.”

Liverpool produced one of their most comprehensive performances, with Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s goal a highlight in the whole Klopp era. It took the Reds to 13 points clear, and with a game in hand over Leicester in second.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Thursday, December 26, 2019: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold scores the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If fans sensed that they were about to end the 30-year wait for the title, so too did the players.

“Even before we stopped for the pandemic, we felt like winners,” says Adrian as he recalls the 44-game unbeaten run that set a new club record. “We felt like we deserved to win (the title).”

Of course, Klopp’s side went on to lift the title in an empty Anfield.

“It was a great feeling to win the Premier League, to be involved in the squad,” Adrian reflects.

“A really strange situation to celebrate without our fans and really difficult but we celebrated as much as possible. Lifting the trophy in the empty Kop, we felt with great company because we knew all the Liverpool fans at home were sharing and celebrating with us.”

In less than 12 months, Adrian had gone from no medals in his collection, to having the Super Cup, Club World Cup and Premier League. What a year.

 

‘Parade memories give me goosebumps’

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 29, 2022: Liverpool's goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo takes a selfie with his team-mates Diogo Jota, Kostas Tsimikas, Ibrahima Konaté, Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho', Luis Díaz, Roberto Firmino and Thiago Alcântara along with the two trophies during a parade around the city after the club won the Cup Double, the FA Cup abd Football League Cup. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Since then, the Reds’ No.13 has added the League Cup and FA Cup to his collection, in 2022, getting to celebrate with the fans in a parade that had an estimated 750,000 people line the streets of Liverpool.

“A lot of memories come to my mind,” he says, while giving a shiver and pointing to his goosebumps.

“It was a really, really special moment. How the people received us after losing a Champions League final. After the game we were frustrated, we felt we were the best team but sometimes in football not always the best team wins.

“We couldn’t imagine how special and how great that moment was going to be. We went to the bus and kept seeing more and more and more Liverpool fans. We couldn’t imagine people could switch off that feeling (of defeat). 24 hours later, everyone was celebrating.

“Those moments pass so quick. I think it was the right decision to celebrate, to share with the fans.

“Everyone that was on the bus or the street celebrating will remember that day for all their life.”

Speaking with Adrian, it’s clear why Klopp has kept him at the club for the past five years. The 37-year-old was once described as “one of the most warmhearted and genuine footballers I have ever come across” and it is that which comes across.