Barcelona are the latest club to be linked with the highly rated Ajax full back Sergiño Dest. There are rumours circulating that the Catalan giants may be ready to offload Nélson Semedo this summer and in Dest, they see a ready-made replacement.
Barcelona have a wonderful history of marauding right-backs with the likes of Dani Alves and Albert Ferrer among some of the greatest to have played the game.
Could Dest be the answer to a problem that has plagued the squad in recent seasons? Here’s five things to know about the latest star linked with Camp Nou.
A Dutchman in New York
Dest’s footballing journey is certainly a unique one. The 19-year-old was born and raised in Almere in the Netherlands to a Dutch mother and a Surinamese-American father, who worked in the state services.
He hadn’t actually visited the USA until 2014 when he visited his father’s hometown of New York for the first time. Despite playing for Ajax’s prestigious academy, Dest had yet to make an impression internationally at youth level in the Netherlands.
The US soccer Under-20 coach at the time, Dave van den Bergh was recommended Dest by Ajax as a dual citizen with a US passport and it didn’t take long for him to convince the defender that his future was with the Stars and Stripes.
A Full Back for Today
It’s Dest’s style of play and maturity at such a young age that has really caught the eye in the last year. He began his youth career as a winger and later switched to right-back which, in this day and age, is hardly a backward step at all.
Dest has the ability to play out quickly from defence with incredible confidence and boldness. Much in the style of the great Dani Alves, he effectively acts a playmaker from the right-hand side and has the ability to cover both halves of the pitch with great speed and effectiveness.
The skills he is already showcasing at such a young age are frightening and Barcelona’s right side would be richly stocked with his signature.
Jumping the Queue
The USA are not short of talented young players at the moment with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Giovanni Reyna and Zack Steffen all proving their worth in Europe’s top leagues already.
Dest could add his name to that list now with a solid international education in place and experience playing for one of Europe’s elite clubs. Last year, he played a key role in his country’s triumph in the Under-20 CONCACAF Championship where they defeated Mexico in the final and put in some impressive displays in the subsequent Under-20 World Cup, despite his teams quarter final exit.
A senior debut followed in September 2019 and he chose to commit his international future to the Yanks a month later. With Dest now onboard too, the USA could potentially finally build a competitive team for the bigger global tournaments.
After an impressive debut season with the Ajax reserve side, Dest was fast tracked into the first team this campaign under coach Erik Ten Hag and has played a vital role in Ajax’s charge to the top of the Eredivisie and their continued success in Europe.
Dest played 36 games across all competitions, scoring twice and assisting six goals, a highly impressive record for a debut season, all be it, sadly null and void.
He has also already gained recognition for his talents by being awarded Ajax’s Talent of the Year for 2020. Past winners include Christian Eriksen, Matthijs De Ligt, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, so not bad company to be joining.
Dest has drawn strong comparisons to similar young full-backs like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James for his attacking ability and maturity beyond his years.
Many teammates and coaches speak of his calm but confident demeanour off the pitch and his desire to keep improving his game on almost match by match basis.
“I want to be a complete player, I want to be good at every single part” Dest once said in an interview with the Scuffed Podcast.
The likes of Bayern Munich and Tottenham have also been linked.