USMNT's Sergiño Dest on history-making Barcelona move: 'I don’t only want to be the first one'
It was a subtle thing, a couple of throwaway lines from Barcelona's Sergiño Dest during a 23-minute Zoom call on Monday with around a dozen US and foreign reporters.
Dest, who last week appeared as the first American player for Barcelona's world-renowned first team, spoke of making history, realizing his dream and playing with new team-mate Lionel Messi when the 19-year-old offered a remarkable player in Distinction.
"I don't just want to be the first," said Dest. "I want to be the first to really do something great at this club. I worked really hard for it. I want to achieve great things. "
Dest, along with Christian Pulisic from Chelsea and Weston McKennie from Juventus, is leading a new generation of young Americans who are playing important roles in some of the world's most important clubs for the first time. You didn't get there by accident.
For the past three decades, American football fans have been obsessed with the few US players who have achieved almost anything that approaches the highest level in Europe. Only 24 American men have ever appeared in the UEFA Champions League. Historically, with few exceptions, the best in the country have represented modest top clubs such as Fulham, Everton or Schalke. It was a triumph just to make it as a role-player in the Premier League or the Bundesliga, and it was.
But the US's relative lack of quality compared to mid-sized European and South American teams didn't prevent athletic, disciplined, and well-funded US teams from hitting their weight in seven consecutive World Cups before they were brutally exposed in the Trinidadian a little over three years ago Couva village.
Sergiño Dest doesn't just want to be the first American player to appear for Barcelona's acclaimed first team. (AP Photo / Joan Monfort)
Now the US finally has a legitimate world-class talent in its ranks. And part of what sets the true elite apart is that, even after entering Barcelona as teenagers, they never believe they have arrived.
"Everyone is hungry and everyone wants to achieve something with the US," said Dest. "I think that's a good sign because Sergiño Dest can achieve great things, but not only personally - also as a team for the US."
“I think we are the people who have to do this. If you play in a big club and you say, "Oh, OK, I already did it," we can't get anywhere. So I hope everyone does what they do and still wants to develop further than they do now. "
In addition to Dest, McKennie and Pulisic, 20-year-old Chris Richards broke into the starting line-up with the Champions League defending champion Bayern Munich. 22-year-old Tyler Adams led RB Leipzig to last season's semi-finals. 17-year-old Giovanni Reyna collects goals and helps Borussia Dortmund.
The junior staff are expected to restore the credibility of the USMNT program as they advance. The 2022 World Cup is only two years away. In 2026, when most of the new batch is just right, the US will co-host the event with Canada and Mexico.
"Everyone can feel the excitement," said Dest. "We have more players [with] big clubs. I think that's why everyone is excited that we can really achieve something at the upcoming World Cup." I'm also very excited to see how the team will do in the next few years. "
Everyone also feels their trust. Dest only spent one season as a starter at Ajax before Barca called. He didn't hesitate when they did.
"A lot of people say it could have taken me a year to develop, but I like challenges," said Dest. "I've been dreaming about it all along, and now I have the opportunity for a club as big as this to play. I should take it and try. "
At the moment, Dest is looking forward to Clasico against Real Madrid on October 24 - "The best game you can play in the sport" - and retraining with Messi when the Argentine returns from World Cup qualifiers.
He had some time to think about his cyclone transfer and debut, which took place a few days after arriving at Nou Camp. And he's looking forward to getting back together with this young and overworked U.S. squad for the first time in a year next month. He believes this could be the start of something special.
"I have a feeling that because we haven't achieved any really big things with the US, everyone wants to be first," said Dest. "Everyone is so motivated to develop and win the country's first big trophy."
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