USMNT’s Dest: I want to prove myself at Barca

United States right-back Sergiño Dest said he intends to fight for his place at Barcelona after an ill-fated loan spell at AC Milan last season.

“I see myself staying,” Dest said Friday, ahead of Barcelona’s preseason tour in the U.S. “Obviously, I have to prove myself during the preseason. I’m fully focused on myself at the moment, so it’s up to me and I feel like I can and I will prove it. My mindset is to stay here and to have a really nice season.”

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Dest didn’t delve deeply into a conversation he had with Barca manager Xavi Hernandez about his future, but said he came away from it wanting to stay at Spotify Camp Nou.

“He just told me, ‘I’ll give you a fair chance to prove yourself,'” Dest said. “So that’s what it is at the moment. He told me, ‘I think you have qualities, but it’s up to you, you have to show me,’ and I fully agree.

“So I think that’s all up to me. I think I have some qualities that can be good for the team, but I have to show it and be consistent.”

Barcelona has a shortage of established options at right-back behind last season’s first choice Jules Koundé, who prefers to play in the center of defense.

Earlier this week, Barcelona president Joan Laporta commented on the situation, saying, “We are missing a right-back and we are working on it.”

Barca signed Dest from Ajax for $20 million in 2020 and he had an encouraging first season, making 41 appearances across all competitions under former coach Ronald Koeman. However, after injury issues and Koeman’s dismissal, Dest lost his place in the team in the second half of the 2021-22 season.

Dest initially wanted to stay at Barcelona last season, but after being left out of the team in the first three games, he departed on loan for Milan, where he managed just 14 appearances in all competitions.

After starting all four games for the U.S. men’s national team at the World Cup, Dest played just five matches the rest of the season for Milan in what he acknowledged was a challenging period.

“It’s a really difficult moment in my career, in my life as well,” Dest said. “And obviously when you get moments like that, you learn a lot from it. So for me, I got mentally way stronger.

“You can look at it at two ways. You can look at it in the negative way: Everything is going bad so you want to quit. Or you just try to find a positive way in the negative things that happened.

“So that was my kind of thing that I did. I always looked at it positive and I was like, ‘OK, at the moment I’m not playing, not going so well, but at these times I can just work on myself.'”

Barcelona will play four friendly matches in the U.S. as part of the Soccer Champions Tour: Juventus in Santa Clara, California (July 22); Arsenal in Inglewood, California (July 26); Real Madrid in Arlington, Texas (July 29); and AC Milan in Las Vegas (Aug. 1).

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