Sergiño Dest set to add to Barcelona’s Dutch tradition and launch a new American legacy
Ronald Koeman will finally get to work with Sergiño Dest, the 19-year-old right-back who has just his first signing for Barcelona, arriving from Ajax in a deal worth up to an estimated €26 million. During his time in charge of the Netherlands national team, Koeman actually tried to convince Dest to play for the Oranje, although the player ultimately opted to play for the USA at international level. Now he’s got his man.
Born in Almere in the Netherlands to a Dutch mother and American father, Dest was eligible to play for either country. He only visited the USA for the first time in 2014, but felt a connection with the country and also appreciated the trust placed in him by US Soccer. Dest thus decided to play his club football for Ajax and his national team football across the Atlantic.
It was with the USA’s youth sides that Dest was first able to gain experience playing in front of big crowds, doing so at the 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland. There, he helped lead the USA to the quarter-finals with his attacking play down the right wing and this set him up perfectly for his club debut.
That came when Ajax coach Erik ten Hag threw the teenager into a huge occasion, giving him his debut in the Johan Cruyff Shield match against PSV Eindhoven in July 2019. The right-footed Dest had to play at left-back and was up to the challenge by playing the whole 90 minutes of Ajax’s 2-0 win. The youngster even had a shot off the post during his first outing.
Having impressed Ten Hag so much in that debut on the big stage, Dest quickly became a starter at Ajax and was able to make the right-back spot his own, playing in his natural position and playing with a coolness that caught the interest of Europe’s biggest clubs. Just over one year after his debut, with 38 Ajax appearances under his belt, Barcelona have signed the attack-minded full-back – who had the fourth most Eredivisie assists of his team, with five, last season – to replace Nelson Semedo at the Camp Nou.
Able to finally work with Dest, Koeman is particularly excited about this acquisition. “He’ll be a very useful player for Barcelona,” the Dutch tactician said in a press conference. “Having young talents is important for this club and, despite his young age, Dest has already played many professional matches, including some Champions League matches.”
In total, the 2019 US Soccer Young Male Player of the Year already has five Champions League appearances to his name and he didn’t look flustered when he stepped out under the lights on those European nights. “You never have to get stressed because, if you get stressed, you’re going to do weird things in soccer,” is a mantra that the right-back has taken to heart, as he told ESPN. “Even now, if someone’s trying to press me or run in behind me, I just think about it and have it in the back of my mind.”
At the Camp Nou, the biggest stadium in Europe, there will be pressure in every match. However, those who know Dest are confident that he can deal with that and show LaLiga and the world what he can do.
For Barcelona, the Dutch-American will continue one legacy and launch another. 20 different Dutch players have represented Barcelona in official competition over the years, including the legendary Johan Cruyff, current coach Koeman and current midfielder Frenkie de Jong, whereas an American is yet to play a competitive match for the club.
Konrad de la Fuente recently became the first USA national team player to feature for Barcelona at all, albeit in a pre-season friendly, and he knows Dest well since they were in the USMNT’s U20s side together. They’ve even combined for a goal before, with Dest assisting Konrad for a strike against France in March last year.
Now, as Dest lands in Catalonia, Barcelona fans will hope to see plenty more of that as this new era gets under way.