Getting to move to Barcelona is a dream that not many young footballers will get to achieve, but Sergiño Dest is one of them. An Ajax regular prior to his Camp Nou move, and a U.S. international, Dest is part of an exciting new generation of talent.

Working through the Ajax youth ranks before making the move to Barcelona, and also establishing himself as a regular international, all before his 21st birthday… Sergiño Dest has already had a career that most would be enviable of. But, as we found out when we caught up with him recently, he’s only too aware that this is just the beginning. Sure he’s ahead with some of his targets, but that just means a reassessment and aiming that sight a little bit higher.

Son to an Surinamese-American father and a Dutch mother, he’s a multicultural man that is carving his own path, though it’s one that will now be under the guidance of a new manager, as Barca continue to traverse a difficult transitional period. Despite this, at both club and international level he’s part of an emerging pool of players, and his is a name you’re sure to hear a lot more of in the future. 

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Starting right at the beginning, can you remember when you first fell in love with football?

I was really young, when I was in my other school, I always played soccer. I can remember after school, my friends were coming to my house to play and then my mother told me you can have your first training session at a real football club. I was like “wow I want that.” 

My friend came with me and I just had my first session. Since then, I didn’t stop, I liked it so much. I played first in my hometown, then after a couple years I moved to Ajax. Now I’m a professional football player.

Born in the Netherlands, Dutch mother. Your dad is from America and you’re now living in Spain…That is such an amazing kind of mixture of cultures to shape your mind. Do you think you have a good blend that’s helped shape you?

Might be. They raised me, I grew up in Holland. You know we have a lot of different cultures over there so it was really nice. Obviously in Amsterdam with Ajax and stuff and moving to be part of US national team – That was the moment I had understood the real American culture. Of course, I had sisters over there, but I didn’t see them that often. When I went to the US u17 national team there was a lot of different cultures and of course American people are really friendly, really open. That was something a little bit new to me.

Would you say you have been quite influenced by American culture then from everything rom music to fashion? 

Music of course, Drake and stuff. That is what I like. But I also like brass band and all that kind of stuff but normal music/hip hop just to listen its like drake etc all these famous artists.

Did you say brass band? That’s a bit different? Not every footballer would say brass band.

Yeah, let’s say if I wanted to put on music by myself, like the brass band stuff, that’s what I like but if you go out then drake would be the one.

How would you describe your head space and your outlook on life? What kind of person are you?

Im really calm to be honest, minding my own business. I’m relaxing with my friends and family, with whoever I can do it with. I’m not the kind of person that wants to be involved with what everyone else does. Most of the time after training I do my own thing. I don’t want to bother other people, and I like that space to unwind.

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When you moved to Barcelona people must have come out of the woodwork - how important has it been to keep the right people around you to keep your feet on the ground?

It’s really important, because the higher you get up everybody wants something from you so its really important that you know who is with you. Some can be real but sometimes not, so you have to be aware.

What moments along the way have meant the most to you?

For me personally, of course my debut for both Ajax and Barcelona. Ajax was my first time playing in a full Ajax stadium. You know it was my first step to a pro career so that is something I always remember and something I am really thankful for. Playing there for 6-7 months and then going to Barcelona, the biggest club in the world and then playing with Messi as well. That is something that means a lot because of course, like any kid I dreamed of playing for Barcelona, but didn’t expect it to happen that fast. Maybe 26/27, OK, but 19?

You should be incredibly proud, it’s an insane achievement. With that in mind, leaving Ajax must have been quite hard given the connection you had built there but when Barcelona do come calling, what goes through your head?

Yeah, in the moment you think yes, its Barcelona you want to leave. Why not go to a bigger club. But at that moment that you really leave your old club you think oh shit I’m actually going to miss this place. You spend so many years there which meant a lot to me.

I also gave my last interview at Ajax before I left, and I went to the stadium to say goodbye to everyone and it was a really emotional moment. I spent almost my whole life there and now I am just gone. Of course, you want to go to a higher level that’s why I went to that club but its always an emotional moment.

But to move out of your comfort zone to a new country, do you feel the benefits of that, are you always trying to challenge yourself in that space?

Yeah, because I like Spain and my team as well. I’ve got a lot of people who want to help me. I like the Spanish culture, you know with the music as well. Yeah, it’s nice to experience different cultures and I think this one fits me really well.

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When you think a year on from joining, this year has been a rollercoaster for so many reasons, with the world, with Barcelona, everything. What lessons has it taught you about yourself?

I feel like nothing is guaranteed, you see a lot of things going on in football. You can up, you can down, nothing is guaranteed you know, you have to be focused at all times and be aware that everything can be over as well. That’s the one thing I learnt the most, especially at Barca, we are not in the best phase of Barcelona’s history but that’s also football, sometimes you get downs but what matters is how you stand up. We are going to get there.

Forget all the media, that can be toxic. You’re part of a new Barcelona and a foundation for the future. That’s an exciting prospect.

Yeah we got a good new generation with loads of young players. Even yesterday we played with like five U22 players or something. If we get the experience, then we can be the next generation of Barca, that will be really good for us.

What keeps you grounded? Because even to walk out at the Camp Nou, hearing that noise, seeing all the fans, all the red and blue in the stadium … Surely your head must go to a different place in those kind of experiences.

The Clasico was my first time with that many people in the stadium because before was Covid. It was amazing man and that’s why I'm upset that I missed the chance I did. I’m the guy like you know a lot of people say “it can happen, its football” but I don’t know, I feel like I blame myself on that one. Obviously like in the last minute I still gave an assist but if I scored that one, the game would be different.

I mean respect for just saying that. Its better you say it than bottle it up and feel the pain but even your own words, its how you stand up afterwards but I’m sure you will smash it on the next occasion. Other than that, what is it like to be a Barcelona player? The lifestyle and the world...

Its amazing man, I had never been to Barcelona before. It was my first time in the city and the city is amazing, the weather is perfect. Even now it is still pretty hot even so late in the year and they have a lot of seafood. You know seafood is not kind of my thing you know, I eat it once in a while but its still nice, the environment in the city is relaxed, you don’t have much stress, but that is also the culture.

As a contemporary player, experiencing the support, fan attention, leaving the stadium … seeing how many fans are around all the cars, have you felt that passion. Has it surprised you?

Most of the time on social media you see it you know, but in real life I see it as well, they have a lot of passion these fans. You know obviously what we saw recently with fans around players and Koeman’s cars it’s not normal but that’s the culture here, that’s what I saw. I dunno, I have never experienced that they are like that mad on me yet. I prefer not to think about it. I want to build a strong connection with the people and the fans here.

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I suppose on the flip side like while it’s a game, it’s a very serious game. You’re an elite athlete at the very top. How would you describe your hunger to win trophies and start adding even more medals to what you’ve always got?

For me personally, I want to win the Champions League and I want to win the World Cup. That’s going to be hard I know but you never know. I wanna win everything that’s possible, I want to fight for it, I want to go for it as well. I haven’t won that much yet, so that’s also something that I have to think about. First, I have to improve myself. Obviously I’m a part in the machine right now but I can be better. If I improve myself I can be much better than now.

Who do you look at finally as your icons or role models, inside or outside of sport that have a lot of respect for?

For me personally, Ronaldinho, that was my idol. It was really nice to watch him play but also the whole Brazilian team who won in 2002. Ronaldo, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Robinho, Adriano. It was just like an enjoyable team to watch. I couldn’t even watch properly at that age but even on FIFA games everyone wanted to be Brazil, me as well. They inspired me a lot like Joga Bonito. Other than that I need to watch more documentaries of other legends like Muhammad Ali but I don’t really know the real story behind it so I can’t really say yet.

Just going back to Barcelona, a little bit, obviously it’s a beautiful place, by the coast, to have this sun kiss backdrop that we mentioned. How well does that also match up with you as a person. Do you feel to be comfortable to be in that environment?

Yeah, this is an environment that perfectly fits me, especially the weather, you know I’ve been in the cold for almost 20 years so this is something good, a longer summer that’s nice. Once in a while I go back to Holland just for a couple days but overall in Spain I like it, I would like to live here later and have a house because I like the culture and that’s why I want to learn Spanish so everything will become easier for me.

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You said you have never been to Barcelona before, do you ever get in the car and go for a drive? Almost act like a tourist?

Yeah, I’ve never done this because obviously I train a lot, we play every three days so you're a little bit tired so most of the time I stay at home but that’s something I still want to do, just on vacation and stuff, just drive. Even if I drive to France or something, it would be still nice because you will see mountains and forest and will be an amazing experience.

On that note, you’re relationship with Cupra, how does it feel to be involved with a brand like Cupra? A brand pushing for a sustainable future – does that reflect what you’re about?

I like the Cupra cars a lot. They gave all of us players at the club a car and at the time it was a brand that I had never seen before. They surprised me with how nice these cars are. I came to the club to sign my contract and they gave me the car. I was instantly asking them questions all about the brand as I hadn’t seen it before. I learnt all about Cupra and from then you know, I saw they looked like really nice cars and I like the brand. It’s fast too – that’s what I like. It fits me pretty well! I had never really driven in an electric car until now. It’s amazing to be part of what the brand is doing.

What is it like to come into a Spanish dressing room and have so many nationalities, so many creative players such as Memphis, icons like Pique? Different tastes, different fashion senses… what is that like?

Obviously I was younger, I saw them play so I’m really thankful I can be in the same dressing room with them. At Ajax we had some players from other countries, but this is just different because it’s a higher level and they want everything.

How big is touching on different looks that are in the changing room when it comes to fashion, how big is that for you on what you’re wearing?

You know like fashion, for me personally when I go to training, I just wear Nike clothes or even the training kit. I’m not going to make a big deal out of that but lets say I go to eat with friends or go to a restaurant I dress nice but its not the crazy fashion. Sometimes you know I feel like people wear things where it doesn’t fit, you know I would never wear things that make me look like a clown.

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What about your sneaker collection, you got a soft spot there?

Yeah, I got some. I got some Nikes yeah. I always ask them cos I’m a nike athlete, I got some Air Jordans, Off-White Jordans. I like them but some of them I haven’t opened yet because I don’t want to get them dirty – ha!

Obviously with the Amsterdam connection you have brands like Patta and Daily Paper and brands like that. Are you into them? Do you like watching things like that? Or is it not necessarily your interest?

They definitely have some nice things, Daily Paper and Patta. For me I don’t look at the value of brands because you can buy Louis Vuitton or something else and the price difference. I’m not a guy who spends because of the brand, also that is not what fashion is about. For me its personally, whatever is good is good.

Respect for that man, because I think so much in the dressing room players can literally copy each other, like why you all wearing the same thing?

Also feel like, lets say the people who don’t have that much money, they’re gonna look up to them and think “ I don’t have fashion now because I cant afford it”, but that isn’t what fashion is about.

Chatting about the U.S. men’s national team and you said about the World Cup. That’s another way to be able to see the world through the levels that you have. How much have you enjoyed the journey that you’ve been able to go on through playing for America?

Yeah it’s been very nice. I’m always giving 100 percent for my country you know. Obviously, I have to choose between Holland and U.S. but right now we are second in the group for the World Cup, but our group is pretty tight so we have to make steps. Next camp in two and a half weeks so we have to make good steps if we are going to qualify, it would be embarrassing if we don’t. Everyone wants to play in the World Cup, especially me as well, so I will be very angry if we don’t make it.

There’s a lot of great talent as part of that next-gen in America coming through to play in Europe - it’s great to see. It’s an exciting future isn’t it for America?

Yeah definitely, definitely. We have a lot of players that are doing well, so we are needing some more experience, same as Barca. We can have a way better team in the future with this experience.

And on the future, I guess rounding up, it’s going to be an enormous few years. There musty be so many people talking about 2026.

Yeah, they do, they do. I mean most of us are like 24/25 so might not be our prime but we will have a good chance as well as new young players coming through. We defo have a chance.

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Sergino Dest wears the Nike Mercurial Vapor 14, which is available at