In a recent interview with ESPN, Sergiño Dest spoke about how he feels about being played at left back, and also revealed that he’s taking both Spanish and Catalan lessons.
Here’s the transcript of the interview in its entirety:
How has your first month as a Barcelona player been?
“It’s been amazing, my dream came true. I think I had a great debut against Sevilla. I thought I played well. Other than that, we lost the Clasico, but for me, I’ve only begun, hopefully I can do wonderful things with this beautiful club and develop myself as best as I can.”
Koeman showed that he trusted you when he put you in the starting 11 against Real Madrid
“That’s a good thing for me, I am comfortable. Of course you have to find your place in the team and play. That’s why I wanted to play a little simple in the beginning, get my spot, get my chemistry with the team and then slowly grow more and more into the team. Koeman gave me confidence, and it’s now up to me (to perform). I have to play well and develop myself.”
You’ve just turned 20, but have managed to adjust to the demands at Barcelona much quicker than more experienced players. What’s the secret?
“‘I’m always going out with my own quality and trying to play with that. Sometimes, when I look at (my teammates) on the pitch, I’m like, “Wow, a couple of years ago I watched you guys on TV.” Now I play with the best player in the world. That’s amazing.”
For me, personally, I always try to work on my skills on the ball, so I’m confident when I have the ball. If you’re confident, it’s easier to play with big players than if you’re not confident, so that’s the key for me. Left- or right-back, it doesn’t matter. I play where the coach needs me. If I have to play left wing, I play left wing. It doesn’t matter, I just want to play. But to be honest, I think I’m more comfortable on the right side.
And you’ve adjusted to the city too…
Dest: I am getting used to it right now. Everything went so quick. Two or three days after I signed, we played against Sevilla. There has not been a lot of rest. I am now in my own place. Everything is more relaxed. I can concentrate more on soccer. I settled really quickly.
Barcelona’s a really nice city. I like it here, I feel at home. There’s not been a moment when I wanted to go back (to Amsterdam). I am good here, I want to develop myself, train really hard every day and then relax, take my rest when I need to. Other than that, I am just in my house just chilling and it’s just a nice city. Also, in the States, with the USMNT, I feel at home over there.
Has it helped to have Dutch speakers like Koeman, his assistant Alfred Schreuder, Frenkie de Jong and fellow American Kondrad de la Fuente around the club?
“That’s better for me, of course, it’s something good. It’s easier to talk with them if I don’t understand (things). I’m also taking Spanish lessons, that’s important for me, and also Catalan. I ask them questions. If I don’t understand it in Spanish, I ask them: What does this mean? What does that mean? They help me, and I’m learning everything quickly and getting used to everything in Barcelona.”
You’ve spoken about Messi a lot since you signed. How good is he in training?
“Yeah, he is really, really good. He has some unbelievable moments, just a joy to watch”
Along with yourself, there are a lot of young players getting minutes at Barca. Ansu Fati and Pedri are both playing regularly. Are we seeing a new great generation emerging?
“It’s really nice to be part of this generation. I think it’s also good to play with a couple of young players so that they can adjust to the level. That way, (Barcelona )already have players for the future. I think it’s really smart that Barca does that right now and gives us the chance to improve quicker.”
How is La Liga? You’ve been thrown in at the deep end with games against Sevilla and Real Madrid.
“They were a couple of tough games. La Liga’s a tough league. It’s a great league to play in for me personally. Because we play a lot of good matches, I have to be focused every game; it’s good for me, it’s good to concentrate on every game. You have to be focused and concentrated, and that’s good for me, I think; I am growing into a man. I think I’ll develop quicker if i play all those hard games.”
What has Koeman asked of you as a player?
“Not much, to be honest. I try to play my game. You know I am a defender, so right now I’m focused on defending. If possible, I go forward. Before, at Ajax, maybe I went a little too much forward and forgot my defensive duties, but now I am not forgetting that. I am looking to pick my moment to go forward. I feel like I am getting slowly more confident in the team, and I feel like in a couple of weeks I will be giving everything i have. Obviously, I give everything I have right now, but when I feel more comfortable in the team and I think it will be better.”
Weston McKennie is also another American that recently signed for a big club. You played against his Juventus side recently.
“Yeah! I didn’t speak to him before the game, but he told me when I signed for Barcelona: “I will see you in the Champions League.” It’s nice to play against him. We’re good friends in the national team.”
There are many (American) youngsters coming through. You obviously know Konrad at Barca, Alex Mendez at Ajax
“These guys are growing, they’re coming. They’re close to reaching the senior team, and Konrad [has just had his first first team call-up]. Hopefully everyone will keep working hard. I think we will have a really good team in the future. For me, it’s just focus on myself and if I can help the others, then I am there for them. But I have to focus on myself to develop myself even more; hopefully, they will do the same and I think we can achieve something great.”
Were you aware of the media explosion that would follow, especially in the U.S., when you signed for Barcelona and became the first player from the US to play for the club?
“Actually, no. When I signed for Barca, I was not looking to see if I could be the first American to play for Barcelona, no. I took the decision for me. I thought this was good for my development, I have the chance to play some minutes.”
“When I had to choose between the Netherlands and the U.S. I had that in the back of my mind: Ok, (i have) two options, but what are the advantages in Holland and advantages in the U.S.? In the U.S, i played my whole youth career there, so it was also a little bit of loyalty. I made a good choice, and hopefully I can get big in the U.S.”
“Soccer is not the biggest sport in the U.S., so hopefully we as a generation can let it grow and get more fans from the U.S. that will support us in soccer, making soccer a little bigger in the U.S.”
What’s been the negative side about your first month at Barcelona? Playing the Clasico in an empty stadium must have been strange.
“It’s really strange. You can feel the pressure, but you don’t really feel it. I think the pressure is something that makes football (great); it makes the sport, the fans, everything around it. It’s not boring because it’s always nice to play, it’s just way better with the fans and the support from outside. My (Barcelona) teammates told me it’s so much pressure [from the fans at the Clasico] but I have to see it with my own eyes.”
There’s more pressure on you now with the national team as a Barca player, too.
“I am prepared for that. You know, just play the game and don’t worry about the outside. I am just in the game. When I am retired, I am out of the game, then I can worry about the things outside, but right now I am in the game, so I won’t let it affect me.”