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From UD Pilas to Super Cup winner: The making of Liverpool folk hero Adrian

COMMENT: So the lesson is... even for Adrian San Miguel... you wait. If you're a free agent and have a decent record behind you, you wait. You just never know what's around the corner.

A month ago, if he'd had his way, Adrian wouldn't be a European title winner today. He wouldn't have made his debut for the European champions on Friday night. And he wouldn't have wrote himself into Liverpool folklore as he did in Istanbul. But that's football. You just never know what's around the corner.

Midsummer and Adrian was back in Spain. Discarded by West Ham. The 32 year-old's minders had fielded some interest. Even the odd offer. But nothing to get Adrian excited. Instead, he chose to wait - and did so by training at little UD Pilas. There, he would "astonish" staff with his humility. Collecting the training gear himself. Sharing the tiny locker room with the rest of the squad. And taking part in senior training. As we said, staff inside the club were astonished by the Adrian's behaviour. There were no airs or graces about him. He was just one of the lads.

Which would be no surprise for those who had worked with Adrian in his six years in England. He's one of those pros who will leave the game having poured more into it, than taken out. His final days with West Ham proof enough. Adrian helping new arrival Roberto to settle quickly in London, all the while knowing his fellow Spaniard was there to essentially replace him. That June 30 arrived with no new contract forthcoming wasn't a surprise to the 32 year-old.

But his time with Pilas appeared to do the trick. Former club Real Betis expressed interest, while Ronaldo's Real Valladolid, in some need for a new senior keeper, were even more keen.

For the player, Adrian's priority was a return to Betis. And he made it clear to management he'd be happy to work inside their budget. But ultimately, like with West Ham, he was rejected.

"I can't hide that it's the team that I love," he said upon taking that 'thanks, but no thanks' call, "but right now it's not an option because they have Pau [Lopez] and Joel [Robles] already."

Today, as he looks at his Super Cup winner's medal, that Betis rejection can be marked as a career highlight. Just as the snub from Manuel Pellegrini and West Ham. From the stands of London stadium, to rejection by Betis, with a stint at humble UD Pilas inbetween, it's been a difficult six months for Adrian. But this morning, he's top of the world.

However, even last night had it's plot twist. Before that penalty save from Tammy Abraham, there was the spotkick conceded in normal time. A wrong call. A wrong decision. Much like Betis and West Ham. But Adrian wore it, accepted it and fought on. A roller coaster summer captured in 30-odd minutes of football.

It's a football fairytale. The stuff of legend. But this past week is no one-off for Adrian. Indeed, he'd be the first to admit he owes his career to being in the right place at the right time - and having the right people making the decisions.

Way back in 2013, a 26 year-old Adrian was third-string keeper at Betis. A good, solid pro - as he's always been - but strictly a reserve. But then fate struck. Injury for Fabri, now of Fulham, and dismissal for Casto suddenly had coach Pepe Mel turning to his third-choice. A debut against Malaga saw Adrian concede four times. But Mel kept faith and was rewarded with three consecutive clean sheets. For the remainder of the season, Mel stuck with Adrian as his No1 and it was that summer he would move to West Ham on the recommendation of former keeper coach Martyn Margetson.

On the pitch, in the aftermath, his manager was right. Jurgen Klopp declaring of his goalkeeping hero: "It's so good for him. I don't think he's won a lot in his life, so I'm really happy for him.

“It's an amazing story.

“He is a great character, not just on the pitch, but off it.

“He was maybe louder than I was at half time, he is obviously quick in mind and helped us a lot and can be really proud."

Certainly those at UD Pilas will be feeling that way. "Proud" of their part in Adrian's journey. The new Super Cup winner, before leaving them for Merseyside, handwriting a personal thank-you letter, with a gift certificate to upgrade their training gear and kit.

This is football. This is what it offers. As Adrian proved last night, more often than not, the nice guys win. And if there's a lesson there for any remaining free agent, it's to wait. You just don't know what's around the corner.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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