Can Sergino Dest be the new Dani Alves?
When Dani Alves left Barcelona for Juventus at age 32, he was still close to the top of his game. The job of replacing him was never going to be easy, but his continued excellence in Serie A and then Ligue 1 – not to mention the Champions League – cast a harsh glare on the RB position at the Camp Nou. Can Sergino Dest finally do it justice?
It's a tall order for sure. As long as Lionel Messi plays for Barcelona, the RB's job will be to bomb forward whenever Messi decides to come inside from RW – which is a lot. And of course, the RB will still have to show enormous energy to get back and defend, since Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets aren't getting any younger. Dest, by contrast, is a 19-year-old smarterscout young prospect. Here are his stats from Ajax at a La Liga standard:
Dest does offer huge attacking output and has the outstanding ball retention that you'd expect from a Barcelona recruit, helped by his good skill in ground duels on the ball. He's an above average defender, but he's not unusually aggressive – a contrast to the hard-charging Alves. In terms of positioning, Dest does cover a lot of ground, as his smartermap shows:
He likes to come inside on the edge of the final third to look for a dagger pass into the area, and he can also dribble in from the corner of the box. He takes shots from pretty good positions, too, aiming for the corners of the goal, but he'll probably be encouraged to leave this part of the game to his new teammates:
Dest's engagement in the Ajax attack showed up in their scoring as well. He was involved in almost half of Ajax's goals in the most recent Eredivisie campaign, but 7 of 8 goals when he played in the Champions League:
That will be an encouraging stat for the bosses at the Camp Nou, since the step up from the Eredivisie can sometimes be daunting for young players. Dest still has plenty of time to develop, though, and he already compares well in some aspects with Barcelona's RBs from last season:
Dest's style is rather similar to Nelson Semedo's, but he gets into the box far more and offers a lot more overall in attack. Like Semedo, Dest is much more interested in defending than Sergi Roberto, though the local boy does pick up a lot of loose balls. It's an facet of Dest's game – along with disrupting opposition moves – where he may need to improve.
Because the two-man committee of Semedo and Sergi Roberto never seemed to click at RB, the door is wide open for Dest to succeed. To be fair, it was hardly surprising in Sergi Roberto's case; now 28, he came to La Liga from Barcelona B as a CM and was wedged into the position on the flank. Semedo was a genuine fullback, but his lack of attacking flair likely led to his departure to Wolves. So it will be a huge relief to Barcelona if Dest can make RB his own.
It will also be a huge boon to the US Men's National Team. These are heady times for the Americans, with Weston McKennie impressing on his debut for Juventus, Christian Pulisic wearing the number 10 shirt at Chelsea, Gio Reyna scoring for Borussia Dortmund, and Tyler Adams critical to RB Leipzig's midfield. All are under age 23 as of this writing, and there is surely more to come from the group. But Dest may be in the biggest spotlight of all. Even if he doesn't magically morph into Dani Alves, fulfilling his potential as Sergino Dest should be plenty exciting.
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