BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Defender Sergiño Dest says it is an honor to become the first American to be signed for Barcelona’s senior team.
“It means a lot to me that I am the first American to wear this jersey,” Dest said at his presentation at Camp Nou on Friday, a day after he signed a five-year contract with the five-time European champion.
“I feel very honored. I really want to get started with this team. It is a dream club for me.”
The 19-year-old Dest joined Barcelona after the club paid Ajax 21 million euros ($24.7 million) plus an additional 5 million euros in add-ons to acquire the speedy defender.
Dest has a Surinamese-American father and Dutch mother and chose to play for the United States instead of the Netherlands, where he was born and raised. He committed to the U.S. team last October, a month after making his senior debut for the Americans.
Dest said that his goal is to follow in the footsteps of former Barcelona right back Dani Alves, who formed part of the Pep Guardiola era at the club.
“Dani Alves is my role model,” he said. “From watching his videos on YouTube I learned a lot from him. And now I can ask his teammates like Lionel Messi for tips, because I want to be a player like him.”
Dest said that coach Ronald Koeman, another Dutchman, makes the transition easier, but that his decision to choose Barcelona over other top European clubs like Bayern Munich was based on a deeper desire.
“Bayern is a great club, but I just followed by heart,” he said. “I thought Barca is the right decision for me. I made my dream come true.”
Dest could make his debut on Sunday when Barcelona plays Sevilla. Barcelona has won its first two games this season, making a good start after Koeman took over following its embarrassing 8-2 collapse to Bayern in the Champions League in August.
The Bayern debacle led to Barcelona overhauling its squad. Dest was signed to take the place of Nelson Semedo, who was sold to Wolverhampton. Dest will likely share time with Sergi Roberto at right back.
Dest could be joined by another American, Konrad de la Fuente, who is in Barcelona’s reserve team. Koeman gave him playing time during the preseason and praised his performances.
Technical director Ramón Planes said that Dest is part of a rejuvenation of a squad that had been exposed as past its prime by Bayern. Barcelona has also brought in 17-year-old forward Pedro “Pedri” González and 20-year-old Francisco Trincão while featuring 17-year-old Ansu Fati in attack.
“I think that Barca is getting a player of the future,” Planes said. “He will adapt quickly given his attacking profile and having come up through the Ajax school with a philosophy similar to ours.”
“We are working day after day to leave a good inheritance for the future and I am sure that people will be grateful for it,” he said.
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