Barcelona close to signing young American defender Dest

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Ajax’s Sergino Dest, left, and Getafe’s Marc Cucurella vie for the ball during a round of 32, second leg, Europa League soccer match between Ajax and Getafe at the Johan Cruyff ArenA in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

MADRID (AP) — American right back Sergiño Dest is set to join Barcelona, coach Ronald Koeman said on Wednesday.

The Ajax player underwent a medical in Barcelona and the clubs were finalizing the details to make the transfer official, the Barcelona coach said.

“He almost certainly will be with us,” Koeman said. “After all the contracts are signed, I have no doubt that he will be a very useful player for Barça.”

Koeman said the youngster will have to fight for a spot on the team but comes with the experience of already having played important matches with Ajax’s first team, including in the Champions League.

“I think that kind of experience will help the player but also will help the American national team,” Koeman said.

The 19-year-old speedy defender has a Surinamese-American father and Dutch mother, but chose to play for the U.S. national team instead of the Netherlands.

“I’ve spoken to Sergiño about the national team, because he had the possibility to play for Holland or America, but finally a decision has to be (made) by the player, because that’s his feeling from inside … and he finally decided to play for the American national team, no problem, I think that’s good for American soccer.”

Koeman has another young American player who could soon be joining Barcelona’s first team in 19-year-old Konrad de la Fuente.

“They play in good competitions but both players are still young,” Koeman said.

Dest committed to the U.S. national team last October, a month after making his senior debut for the Americans. He still had the ability under FIFA’s rules to change his affiliation to the Dutch national team as he had only played in friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay.

Dest tied his international future to the U.S. on Nov. 16, helping the team reach the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals with a 4-1 win over Canada, setting up Jordan Morris’ goal.

Dest already played for the U.S. at the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups.

Champions League winner Bayern Munich reportedly also wanted to sign Dest from Ajax.

The youngster arrives to help make up for the absence of Nelson Semedo, the Portuguese right back who joined Wolverhampton in England.

Barcelona plays its second Spanish league game of the season at Celta Vigo on Thursday. It opened with a 4-0 rout of Villarreal on Sunday.

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