According to soccer scoopsters of all veracity levels, USMNT stud Sergiño Dest is probably headed from his seventh-place team—who trail the leaders by 17 points and have already crashed out of the Champions League group stage—to the all-but-anointed kings of a better league who are arguably the Champions League favorites. If he doesn’t go there, it will be because he’s been bought by the defending UCL champs and EPL contenders, who will exclusively play him at his preferred position. Either way, he will almost certainly leave for a better team in January. And it feels terrible!
Dest has been a Barcelona player for just over one year, joining the team just before his 20th birthday and achieving some legitimate highs, like scoring a pair of goals against Real Sociedad, assisting literally Lionel Messi, and, most importantly for American fans, doing all of this in the Barcelona strip. Though the club has followed up its shambolic 2020 with an outright disastrous 2021, suffering existential financial woes and coughing up Messi for free, it has still felt special to see Dest play for Barcelona. Even Christian Pulisic playing for Chelsea doesn’t have quite the same magical feeling, since that club is an ersatz oligarchic plaything and Barcelona has more historical heft than any other club in the world. He was one of us! Playing for Barcelona! Come on!
He is probably done being a Barcelona player. The famously broke club is buying Ferran Torres, who will cost money. Nobody wants to take on any of the dead weight on Barca’s bench. While Dest is a young player with world-class skills, the holes in his game are the sort that are tailor-made to annoy a new manager like Xavi, who is charged with at least stopping Barcelona’s slide. He also has legitimate market value, so the club essentially needs to sell him in order to make the Torres buy and keep the club solvent. That clubs like Bayern Munich and Chelsea are leading the chase for Dest shows both why Barcelona are eager to sell him and also why it’s a risky move.
Dest has floundered a bit in recent months with Barca, though he actually seems to fit way better at either of the two gigantic clubs that want him. Bayern Munich nearly bought Dest from Ajax in the summer of 2020, and they don’t have a straight-up right back who can bury Dest in the pecking order. They are also so much better than most of their league competition, which would allow Dest to spend more of his time flying forward and creating magic than doing anything as boring as responsibly defending the flank. There’s some tactical uncertainty, as Julian Nagelsmann has mostly kept one fullback relatively withdrawn, though he has played a variety of formations throughout his time in Germany. Chelsea would offer Dest much more competition at fullback—if you squint, this includes Christian Pulisic—though Dest would get to play wingback for the Blues and truly be deputized to inflict pain in the attacking third. Also, both teams are simply much better than Barcelona (in both absolute and relative terms) and Dest is a player whose utility scales with his team’s quality. A true win-win.
Except, no, dammit, neither of those clubs is FC Barcelona! It’s so cool that he’s there, and even though he will probably be in a better situation in one month, I will feel somewhat bummed out that circumstances and Dest’s particular weaknesses abruptly ended his stint in Catalonia. We’ll at least always have the Sociedad game.