Sergino Dest drives against Jonathan Osorio of Canada during the CONCACAF Nations League match at Exploria Stadium on November 15, 2019 in Orlando, Florida.
Sergiño Dest, a 19-year-old right back seen as a key to the future of the U.S. men’s soccer team, completed a move to Barcelona on Thursday, adding his name to the growing list of young Americans now playing for some of the world’s biggest pro teams.
The five-time European champions paid $24.7 million, plus an additional 5 million euros in add-ons, to acquire the player from Dutch champions Ajax, according to the Associated Press. Dest, who will wear the No. 2 shirt, signed a five-year deal and becomes the first American to join Barcelona’s first team.
A speedy wing back, Dest will be expected to balance his defensive responsibilities with dangerous attacks up the right flank, working alongside six-time world player of the year Lionel Messi.
“I have no doubt that he will be a very useful player for Barça,” coach Ronald Koeman told the AP.
Following the U.S. team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, a new group of young players has emerged to lead the charge into qualifying for the 2022 tournament. With Dest’s move, five U.S. players age 22 or younger are now playing for major European teams.
Midfielder Weston McKennie, 22, joined defending Italian champions Juventus in August, while Christian Pulisic, 22, of Chelsea and Tyler Adams, 21, of RB Leipzig and Gio Reyna, 17, of Borussia Dortmund already play for teams that reached the knockout round of the most recent Champions League.
Born in Almere, Netherlands, to a Dutch mother and Surinamese-American father, Dest came up as a player through the storied youth teams at Ajax in Amsterdam. With eligibility to play for either the Dutch or U.S. national teams, Dest committed last year to playing for the U.S., for whom he had previously played in youth tournaments.
Dest’s distinction as the only U.S. player on Barcelona could be short lived, as fellow American Konrad de la Fuente, 19, has recently shined with Barca’s reserve team.