American defender Dest hopes to regain spot with Barcelona after miserable time at AC Milan

AP , Saturday 15 Jul 2023

After a miserable 2022-23 season, Sergino Dest hopes to persuade Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández he deserves a spot on the team and in the starting lineup.

Sergino Dest
Edson Alvarez of Mexico tackles Sergino Dest of the United States during the first half of a CONCACAF Nations League semifinal soccer match Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Las Vegas. Photo: AP


Unwanted by Xavi at the start of last season, the defender was loaned to AC Milan and appeared in just eight Serie A matches. He didn’t even dress after Jan. 24.

Dest is back with Barcelona ahead of a preseason U.S. tour that starts next week as the Blaugrana prepare for their Aug. 13 opener at Getafe.

“I don’t want to give too much information about what we discussed,” Dest said Friday during a conference call with U.S. media. “At the end of the day, he just told me: ‘OK, I give you a fair chance to prove yourself.’ He told me: ‘I think you have qualities, but it’s up to you. You have to show me.’”

Still only 22, Dest is the starting right back on the U.S. national team. He played for Ajax in 2019-20, then on Oct. 1, 2020, became the first American on Barcelona’s first team.

He played in 21 league matches and 31 overall under Ronald Koeman, but the coach was fired in October 2021 and was replaced by Xavi. Dest started just seven league matches under the new coach.

Then came the loan to Milan, where Dest made just two league starts.

“Obviously, it’s not easy,” Dest said. “It’s a really difficult moment in my career, in my life. as well. Obviously, when you get moments like that, you learn a lot from it. So for me, I got mentally way stronger.”

Barcelona opens the preseason against Juventus on July 22 at Santa Clara, California, plays Arsenal four days later in Inglewood, California, meets Real Madrid on July 29 at Arlington, Texas, and finishes against Milan on Aug. 1 in Las Vegas. Milan acquired Christian Pulisic from Chelsea on Thursday.

“It’ll be nice to play against Christian,” Dest said. “I just have to do my best and make sure in the field I’m the boss.”

The tour is Dest’s chance to show he belongs on a world power.

“I see myself staying. Obviously, I have to prove myself during the preseason,” he said. “It’s up to me. I feel like I can and I will prove it. My mindset is to stay here.”

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