Even in his darkest moment, George Timotheou knew his A-League berth was coming. It was just a matter of where.
The Canberra junior's long journey to the A-League has finally come to an end, with the central defender signing a two-year deal with Adelaide United earlier this week.
It marks the next chapter in a whirlwind 2020 for Timotheou, who faced the prospect of an early retirement when a congenital heart condition flared up over summer.
In eight months, the 23-year-old has gone from having a life-changing surgery to realising his childhood dream. All while becoming a dad to seven-week-old Marcus.
"I always believed I would get something after the surgery but for me, it's a massive relief," Timotheou said.
"Being a young dad now, my partner is out of work and it's about putting money on the table at the same time. It's not just a career I'm focusing on, I'm providing for my family. Signing for two years is a massive relief."
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Timotheou is considered as one of Australia's most promising centre-backs, having plied his trade with Bundesliga giants Schalke 04 and Belgium outfit Zulte Waregem in recent years.
He trained with the Western Sydney Wanderers for a week before joining Adelaide, who had been circling the defender since late last year.
Timotheou said the Wanderers wanted him to stay, but he'd already promised Adelaide's Director of Football Bruce Djite to also trial at Hindmarsh.
Having passed a medical examination with flying colours and impressed in two trial matches, Timotheou was a done deal.
The former Sydney FC player will now shift his focus to making his A-League debut and hopes to become the Reds' starting centre-back, contesting the likes of Jordan Elsey and Michael Jakobsen for the position.
"[Debuting] would mean a lot. It's weird timing because I spent so many years at Sydney FC. Growing up in Australia, you'd expect someone to make their debut at a younger age... it would mean everything," Timotheou said.
"Being at such a great club like Adelaide, it would mean a lot. This is more so a debut to hopefully be a starting centre-back for the whole season.
"That's the goal, to come back here and cement a starting position and just build on that, work my way back into the national team. My focus is on club level right now, get into the starting XI and see where it takes me.
"[Elsey and Jakobsen] are two great centre-bacls but I think it makes it better, all three of us competing. It only raises the training level, making us hungrier to prove that we should be playing.
"A competitive environment can only make good things. I think we've got a good core group and young players, who are going to push for starting spots and that's how it should be."
Timotheou hopes to boost his bid for the Tokyo Olympic Games by getting a full A-League season under his belt.
He was left out of an Australian under-23's camp last week, but that came as no surprise given he's been out of action for the majority of this year.
The postponement of the Tokyo Games came as a silver lining for Timotheou during recovery, with the Canberran eyeing the chance to resurrect his international career in 2021.
"What better time to do my rehab, get back to 100 percent and basically get a full season in? Hopefully I'll put myself into contention for [Olympics]. There's no expectations that I'll be picked, I'm just focusing on club level," Timotheou said.
"Being in the national team is an added bonus. It's always a goal and what a story that could be, becoming an Olympian after such a crazy roller coaster."
His partner Amanda and son Marcus will join him in Adelaide this weekend, with the young family looking forward to starting their new life in South Australia.
Timotheou loves being a dad and the new perspective it's given him on life.
"Life is completely different and it's such a blessing, we're so grateful," Timotheou said.
"He's just so fun. He's such a good boy. I think he's got a bit of me and my partner in him, looks wise and character. He's not cheeky but he pushes the boundaries sometimes... it's very cute, he melts your heart."