Sergiño Dest gave a subtle hint of his destiny on Instagram in May, posting a video of himself wearing a Barcelona training jersey. With this, the American’s affection for the Catalan club was established and so when Dest was presented with a choice between Barça and Bayern Munich not long after, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when he opted for the Camp Nou over the European champions.
"Bayern are a great club and there was interest from them, but I followed what my heart told me to and for that I signed for Barça. I think it was the right decision."
Barcelona need a player like Dest. They’ve needed someone like him for years, since Dani Alves left the club in 2016. The Brazilian redefined the full back role in European soccer, setting the standard players in the position are still measured against to this day. There has been an Alves-shaped void at the Camp Nou ever since.
Converted from a midfielder to a right back, Sergi Roberto has done an adequate job in the position, while Nelson Semedo, signed from Benfica in 2017, failed to find any sort of consistency before being offloaded to Wolves this summer. Barcelona’s defensive line has been lopsided for the last four years and it’s up to Dest to address this.
Widely regarded as one of the best young full backs in the sport, Dest is typically adept on the ball for a player who came through the famed Ajax youth system. His natural pace means he is capable of covering a great deal of ground up and down the right wing, giving Barcelona a similar attacking outlet on the right that they have in Jordi Alba on the left.
This could fundamentally change Barça’s approach as an attacking unit. Until now, their play in the final third has been heavily weighted towards the left side. Ronald Koeman has a number of options on that wing, with Alba, Antoine Griezmann and Ansu Fati all naturally left-sided, but his choices are somewhat sparser on the right, where Lionel Messi is loosely positioned.
The deployment of Dest down the right wing could ease some of the burden on Messi to provide Barcelona with width, freeing up the Argentine to roam in between the lines of midfield and attack. What’s more, the combined presence of Alba on the left and Dest on the right has the potential to stretch opponents to breaking point. There’s only so much pitch a team can cover.
Of course, Dest is far from the finished product. The 19-year-old only has one full season of senior soccer behind him, making only 38 appearances for Ajax before securing his move to Barcelona, even losing his place in the team towards the end of his time in Amsterdam. His game still requires refinement, but the Camp Nou is the perfect place for him to achieve that, with the link between Ajax and Barça well-established. The ideologies of the two clubs are aligned through the principles of Johan Cruyff and Dest is a product of those principles.
Dest’s decision to join Barcelona over Bayern Munich was surprising to some. While the Catalans remain one of the biggest clubs in the game, the environment at the Camp Nou isn’t the most conducive for the cultivation of young talent. On the other hand, Bayern Munich are the epitome of footballing efficiency, both in their performances on the pitch and in their harnessing of youth. Just look at Alphonso Davies.
In Barça, Dest has joined a club in political and ideological crisis. This was well documented over the summer as Messi attempted to force his way out of the Camp Nou amid open warfare with club president Josep Bartomeu. It won’t be until next March’s presidential election that Barcelona’s future is straightened out.
And yet Dest should be applauded for the bravery of his decision. Bayern Munich might be Europe’s best at this moment, but no other club sets the sport’s zeitgeist like Barcelona. What happens at the Camp Nou matters and Dest has put himself at the centre of the soccer universe this summer.
In Konrad de la Fuente, there was already an American at Barcelona, but Dest is part of the USMNT’s exciting next generation which has already infiltrated the elite level of the sport. There’s Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig, Weston McKennie at Juventus, Gio Reyna at Borussia Dortmund, Chris Richards at Bayern Munich and now Dest, born in Netherlands but declared for the USMNT, at Barcelona. For the States, this constitutes a golden generation.
There’s still long way to go before Dest can be considered the true successor to Alves at Barça, but the teenager is the most suitable candidate for that role since the departure of the legendary full back four years ago. After years of wearing a Barcelona jersey, dreaming of stepping onto the Camp Nou as part of the fabled club, Dest could finally see that dream become reality on Sunday against fellow title challengers Sevilla.
Barcelona face Sevilla this upcoming Sunday, when Dest could see his first minutes for his new club. El Clásico looms at the end of the month, and fans will hope the youngster can integrate himself well enough into the squad to deserve playing time in that rivalry match.
Fans can watch every Barcelona match in La Liga and Champions League on fuboTV.
Sunday, Oct 4, 3pm – vs. Sevilla
Sunday, Oct 18, TBD – vs. Getafe
Tuesday, Oct 20, 3pm – vs. Ferencvaros (Champions League)
Sunday, October 25, TBD – vs. Real Madrid