On Friday, Sergino Dest was named Ajax’s Young Player of the Season. The USMNT defender really can be the real deal, unlike many former pretenders.
There is a natural excitement that comes when young players perform at a high level. Fans love to see talent shine, whether it be at their clubs or on the international stage, and so, when young players begin to make progress in certain areas, fans get excited.
This is especially true for national teams. Clubs can buy players to supplement the team. They can add talent in the transfer market and improve their squads without having to develop their own players. National teams do not have that luxury. The players they build are the players they use.
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For U.S. Men’s National Team prospects, this has been problematic in the past. They receive a great deal of hype, and then, inevitably, they do not live up to it. Teenagers who show any semblance of capability at the senior level are suddenly thrust into the limelight, cast as the saviour of U.S. soccer. They could never live up to the hype.
This will be true for many of the current young prospects now. The likes of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent have received praise at a level that few other young American prospects have ever seen. They are, of course, doing things that many young American players have not done, but it would be shocking if they all lived up to their potential.
Nevertheless, if there is one young prospect who could be the real deal, it might just be Sergino Dest, who is already a regular at one of the best clubs in the world for youth development. “I have indeed made great strides this season,” exclaimed Dest to Voetbal International in early September when discussing breaking into the Ajax starting XI. “I do have a lot of faith in myself. I didn’t think it would happen so quickly. I am happy with it and I am proud of myself that I have already achieved this. It is very special to break through now, but I also worked very hard for it.”
Dest is confident in his abilities, without being cocky. He knows what he is capable of, but he also recognises the work he must put in to achieve it. “I had to stay focused — I know I have potential — but I needed that focus to achieve what I have. I believed in myself,” Dest told ESPN in January. “When I got my chance with the first team, I knew it was all or nothing.”
He has also impressed those around him. On Friday, Ajax announced that he won the club’s Young Player of the Season award. “You came like a comet,” Ajax coach Erik ten Hag said of Dest when the announcement was made. “You played a lot of games in Ajax 1, including in the Champions League. You showed your potential. This is well deserved.”
This is a club that has nurtured the likes of Siem de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, Donny van de Beek, and David Neres. And that is all in the past few seasons. Over their history, Ajax are responsible for churning out some of the best footballers in the world, including Dennis Bergkamp, Frank Rijkaard, Frank de Boer, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Johan Cruyff and many, many more.
Dest is full of talent, has a good head on his shoulders, and is at precisely the right club to one day become a star. He might just be the real deal.