Football Features

Sergino Dest: The Golden Boy nominee destined “for a team like Barcelona”

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 16:18, 19 June 2020

This summer is set to usher another period of re-building at Dutch champions Ajax.

Erik ten Hag has already bid Hakim Ziyech a well-deserved goodbye. The Moroccan forward is set to link up with Timo Werner at Chelsea, and several of his former teammates could follow him elsewhere.

André Onana, Nicolás Tagliafico and Donny van de Beek, all of whom played instrumental roles in their incredible Champions League run last year, have been linked with Europe’s heavyweights.

But other, less established names are featuring in recent gossip columns. Sergiño Dest, who only truly broke through in the unfinished 2019/20 season, is said to have caught the eye of several ‘super-clubs’.

Who is Sergino Dest?

As a graduate of Ajax’s esteemed academy, it should come as no surprise to hear Dest is multifunctional. Although he’s nominally a right-back, Ten Hag has often used him on the opposite flank to varying degrees of success. His natural instinct focuses on the attacking side of his game, making Dest a perfect wing-back.

He is far from consistent (his work on the backfoot needs developing). This is not unusual for a player so young but it explains why Noussair Mazraoui would often get the nod when both of them are available.

The 19-year-old American international can then be described as a diamond in the rough. Born and raised in Almere, there was an option for him to represent the Dutch national team, but he opted for the United States having been a regular youth international.

Dest’s tremendous upside saw him recently nominated for the prestigious Golden Boy award though chances of winning (and following in the footsteps of former teammate Matthijs de Ligt) are slim with names such as Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland also on the longlist.

How good is he?

Dest has tremendous potential but needs to be in the right environment for it to be realised.

So far, he’s made 35 appearances for the Amsterdammers in all competitions (all but two at right-back), scoring twice and creating a further six for his teammates. From those outings, he’s completed the full 90 minutes 24 times. Each occasion would see Dest spend as much time in the opposition half as his own, in keeping with the typical designs of Ten Hag, who seeks to have as many creative options as he can afford. As you’d expect, there’s a cost to his attacking endeavours, namely one-on-one defending as well as recognising threats.

It’s a weakness he can surely grow out of but for now remains an understandable concern, especially as inconsistency is a notable trait among youngsters and can often lead to frustrating moments. A case in point was Ajax’s hard-fought win over Heerenveen in March, when just before half-time captain Dusan Tadic and Dest were involved in a heated argument (as you’ll see in the video above, the Serbian was clearly annoyed by several moments of poor decision-making).

Dest and Tadic would soon make up, though it highlighted what many observers feel to be true: he’s going to be great one day, but right now Dest cannot be classified among the very best in his position.

Where next for Dest?

  • Dream: The association between Ajax and Barcelona is strong. Countless players down the years have represented both clubs. That they share a similar playing style makes the leap from Amsterdam to Catalunya one worth dreaming of. Barça having the finances and capabilities of winning Europe’s biggest club competition helps, too. And there could be a position opening if Nélson Semedo fails to nail down the right-back spot permanently. Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman, who is fondly remembered by both aforementioned teams, has followed Dest closely (because he sought to recruit him for Oranje) and feels he should be considered by the Camp Nou outfit.”Sergiño Dest is a winger for teams like Barcelona,” he told Catalunya Ràdio. “He’s one of those offensive full-backs who is fast and is comfortable with the ball. He has a great future on any team.”
  • Realistic: To leave Ajax before his 20th birthday would be a gamble. De Ligt, who joined Juventus last summer as a teenager, is an anomaly if you will. A freakish talent who had seemed to have outgrown the league. That cannot be said for Dest, who isn’t exactly seen as surplus to requirements. At this stage of his career, the best place for his development is where he’s been calling home. History is littered with many examples of promising youngsters leaving the Eredivisie for Europe’s biggest leagues and have unfortunately paid the price for their ill-advised switches by fading into obscurity. There’s no harm in spending at least one more season under Ten Hag’s tutelage, especially now the Ajax boss is set to remain at the helm of Dutch football’s biggest club.

  • Wildcard: Rightly or wrongly, Dest might see this moment as the opportunity to strike the iron while it’s hot. Who knows where his stock will be in a year’s time. Right now, a host of super clubs are seemingly clamouring for his signature and those big clubs could easily move on to another big name. The latest to reportedly show interest is Paris Saint-Germain and in those links there is a semblance of sense, as Thomas Meunier could be heading for the exit door. It would leave 21-year-old Colin Dagba as their only recognised right-back, though centre-back Thilo Kehrer can also fill in. England, too, will always be a viable destination for highly-rated Eredivisie players and over the last 18 months few Premier League teams have been more active in that market than Tottenham. Most recently, they signed Steven Bergwijn and have no fewer than three former Ajax stars in their squad. Jose Mourinho’s switch to a back-three could attract Dest as competition for Serge Aurier, who hasn’t always looked comfortable in a Spurs jersey.
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