Sergiño Dest Signs For Barcelona As Ronald Koeman Finally Gets His Man

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Serginho Dest Barcelona transfer

ORLANDO, FL – NOVEMBER 15: United States defender Sergino Dest (18) looks to pass the ball during … [+] the CONCACAF Nations League soccer match between the Canada and United States on November 15, 2019 at Explorer Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Barcelona have confirmed the signing of United States international full-back Serginño Dest from Ajax. The 19-year-old joins the club for a fee of $24.5 million with the potential for around $6 million in add-ons further down the line.

He will immediately challenge for a place in the first team and should be starting games sooner rather than later, as utility player and sometime right-back Sergi Roberto operated in the position during the Barca’s season opener—a 4-0 win at home to Villarreal.

Among the teams interested in Dest’s signature were German champions FC Bayern, a club who have already had great success moulding a young full-back with big potential into a star player in the shape of Canadian left-back Alphonso Davies.

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Concrete links with the Bavarians surfaced in February, and have rumbled on since. A move to Bayern appeared a dead cert at one point, and the signing of Dest would complete the symmetry on the flanks for the European champions, but Barcelona was the bigger draw for the American who has always wanted to play in La Liga, and for Barca in particular.

Ajax v RKC Waalwijk - Dutch Eredivisie

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – SEPTEMBER 20: Sergino Dest of Ajax during the Dutch Eredivisie match … [+] between Ajax v RKC Waalwijk at the Johan Cruijff Arena on September 20, 2020 in Amsterdam Netherlands (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)

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The Catalan club have been looking to strengthen this area of the team for some time. The sale of Portuguese right-back Nelson Semedo to English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the transfer window leaves the door open for Dest to make the right-back spot his own.

One of the most exciting possibilities for Dest, this season at least, will be the prospect of linking up with Lionel Messi.

Each version Messi can induce awe in an audience as he transitions between goalscorer, playmaker, and unstoppable dribbler. But arguably the best and most complete version of the Argentine, the one that made him really stand out as one of the best to ever play the game, was the one that worked in tandem with Brazilian right-back, Dani Alves. Messi likes playing alongside an attacking right wing-back who also has the ability to link the play.

At this stage, comparisons between Dest and Alves cannot be made when it comes to their level of football, but they can be made when it comes to style.

FC Barcelona v CA Osasuna - La Liga

BARCELONA, SPAIN – MARCH 16: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates with his teammate Daniel Alves … [+] after scoring his team’s sixth goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at Camp Nou on March 16, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

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Dest was born in the Dutch city of Almere, near Amsterdam, but is eligible to play for the United States through his Surinamese-American father.

He is a U.S. international who has been schooled in the Netherlands, and more pertinently from a Barcelona point of view, at Ajax—a club from whom the Catalans have regularly borrowed during their most successful and iconic periods.

Barcelona’s new manager and former player, Ronald Koeman, spent his previous two years working as head coach of the Netherlands national team, and wanted Dest as part of his national team player pool.

There was a point where Dest was turning down both the U.S. and the Netherlands in order to make sure he made the right decision. Once he did make his mind up, opting for the 2026 World Cup hosts, Dest was all in.

“I am happy to announce that I have decided to keep playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team,” Dest said in a statement prior to being called up for his first competitive USMNT games.

“Of course, it was a tough decision for me when the Dutch men’s national team showed their interest, but I have built up a very good feeling with Team USA over the last couple of years and I strongly believe in the plans and potential of U.S. Soccer.

“I am therefore dedicated to making the next 10-15 years a big success and will do my utmost to help the team play for titles.”

USA v Ecuador: Quarter Final - 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup

GDYNIA, POLAND – JUNE 08: Sergino Dest of USA controls the ball during the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup … [+] Quarter Final match between USA and Ecuador at Gdynia Stadium on June 8, 2019 in Gdynia, Poland. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

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He also had the courtesy and professionalism to personally inform Koeman of his decision before it was publicly reported.

“I have informed the national team coach Ronald Koeman because I respect him greatly and didn’t want him to learn from the press,” Dest added.

“He told me he was disappointed, however, he respected my choice.”

This will have impressed Koeman, and as a coach who has already tried to acquire Dest’s services for one of his teams, and one who already knows the character of the player, he will have had no doubts when the possibility of signing him for Barcelona arose.

Dest signed his first professional contract with Ajax in December 2018 while still in the ranks at their academy side, Jong Ajax. The next summer he was appearing for the United States at the U20 World Cup in Poland as part of a team full of exciting technical players who provide hope for the senior World Cup on home soil in 2026.

During that World Cup, Dest roomed with current Barcelona academy player Konrad De La Fuente, whose name has been in and around the first-team squad at Camp Nou during pre-season.

The subsequent season was one of great progression. No sooner had he been propelled into the limelight of the Ajax first team than he was already been talked up to make the next step, and a big one at that.

Even before he took over at Camp Nou, Koeman saw a future for Dest at Barcelona, stating on Catalunya Radio that: “Dest is a player for clubs like Barcelona. He is an attacking wing-back who is very fast and good at the ball. Dest would suit any club.”

Everything has fallen into place for both player and manager, but they join the club at a time of great strife behind the scenes. It’s Koeman’s task to make sure his players are affected by this as little as possible, and it’s Dest’s job to make that right-back spot his own through good performances. Given his talent, there is no reason why he can’t.

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