This has been the most miserable month of a miserable season for Barcelona, replete with embarrassing losses (including ones to Madrids Real and Atlético), hopelessly uninspired play, debilitating injuries (we’ll see neither Ansu Fati, Gerard Piqué, or Sergio Roberto until the new year), and the increasingly difficult-to-ignore sense that Lionel Messi is … well, to avoid blaspheming against D10S, let’s just say he’s looking mighty clean. In fact, the only real pleasure to be found at Barça all season has been watching the emergence and development of its cadre of callow but stunningly good youngsters—a group in which America’s very own Sergiño Dest fully belongs.
It was a pair of those young studs, Dest and Pedri, who made Barcelona’s 4–0 win over Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday something more than just an entry on a ledger. In a heavily rotated side, Dest and Pedri, the youngest players in the lineup, led the team as far and away the best two players on the pitch. Dest in particular shined every time he touched the ball and was often Barça’s most dangerous attacker, flexing his insultingly imperious technique constantly and consecrating his dominance with the team’s opening goal, his first in Blaugrana. The kid is simply a freak:
There are so many exquisite little technical gestures in the compilation above to turn you into a living Vince McMahon meme while watching it. Like that first-time backheel roll 18 seconds in, or that satin touch with the outside of his left foot that sets up his scoring shot at 1:13, or the croqueta inside the box at 1:39, or the elastico at 1:48, or any of the countless little ball rolls and step-overs he’s always tossing off to keep his marker off balance. And his flights of fancy are never superfluous, he’s always using his skills for the greater purpose of advancing himself and his teammates towards goal. That fact, coupled with his consistently savvy and varied positioning, his surprisingly sound defending, and his compliance with his tactical role when asked to play more attacking like on Tuesday or more conservatively in other matches, testifies to an intelligence that is at least equal to his overwhelming technical quality.
Dest turned 20 years old this month. He is in his first season at a new club in a new country, playing for the most dysfunctional Barcelona in ages, and has featured in a mere eight matches, often not even in his ideal position. Yet it is already completely obvious that he belongs at this level, that he has the ability to dominate matches today and the potential to become a major force in the team and the sport for years to come. Dest, like Ansu and Pedri, is a beacon from a future brighter than Barcelona’s dimming present. It remains to be seen just how luminous that future will be, but like the distant light at the end of a long tunnel, the mere promise of it can be encouragement enough to soldier on.