The very name ‘Ajax’ is enough to make fans question what’s in store from them next. The club is synonymous with producing talents after talents in a rather unselfish fashion. Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt left in the summer. But like every year, Ajax always have some players rising through the ranks. The latest one in the conveyer belt could be Sergino Dest.
The loss of De Ligt to Juventus has had an impact on Dest’s rise to prominence this season. That rise hasn’t been direct, but having De Ligt play regularly in the centre-back position saw Joel Veltman shift to centre-back. But once the 19-year-old left for Turin, Veltman had to go back to his original centre-back position.
That’s why Veltman has made 19 appearances in the Eredivisie. A vast majority of them have come from the centre-back role instead of how he was a right-back last season after a return from an ACL injury.
This has allowed Dest to make 16 appearances in the league. The 19-year-old American has also played five times in the UEFA Champions League, being a regular in that position. This indeed is Dest’s first season of regular football at the Amsterdam-based side.
Dest is a complete full-back. Like a modern-day full-back, he knows how to attack. And like an old-fashioned full-back, he knows how to defend too. He has that nastiness about him too.
Before the season began, Ajax boss Erik ten Hag did praise Dest for how he has improved. During the pre-season, the Dutchman said:
“If you can do this against a Premier League club and the number two in Turkey then it can also be in the Cruyff Shield and in the league. Of course, he still makes mistakes, but he also does a lot of good. He has the conditions. we had Mazraoui in the same process for years, and that could happen to him this year, but that depends on how he grows.”
As Noussair Mazraoui, he too has played 13 times in the league. And with Dest, he’s been rotating on a consistent basis under Ten Hag.
That has benefitted Dest. He has shown his complete abilities regularly. He has completed 1.2 dribbles per game this season, taking 1.1 shots per game. The American also comes up with 0.9 key passes per game– a sign of how good he’s attacking-wise. That has led him to have four assists to his name.
Defensively, he has made 1.9 tackles per game. He has also made 0.8 interceptions per game for the side. The best part, he gets dribbled past only 0.5 times per game. At the age of 19, that is a good number to start with for a modern-day defender.
His impressive performances for the club have already seen him play for the USA national team. He has made three appearances for the senior side, with his debut coming only in September 2019. The first two appearances came from left-back.
Dest’s qualities came to the fore in Ajax’s 1-0 win over PSV this past weekend. He was one of the best players on the pitch. He won three tackles, completing one dribble too. His tackling accuracy was 100 percent, as he also won two interceptions.
That game is a definition of his completeness as a player. That is why his future is bright. Many full-backs are attack-minded. But Dest is that and isn’t that too. Soon enough, teams could be fighting for his signature.