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Bayern Munich or Barcelona? For Sergiño Dest, an Elite Pair of Options

Few players wind up in transfer tugs of war between clubs like Bayern and Barça, but that's where the USA's 19-year-old Sergiño Dest currently finds himself.

Bayern Munich or Barcelona?

In U.S. soccer circles, that's usually a question reserved for one's choices when playing EA Sports's FIFA or gamblers peering at a Champions League knockout tie. For Sergiño Dest, it's a question regarding his future destination. 

It's no secret by now that the two behemoths have come calling for Ajax's 19-year-old Dutch American fullback. It's the second time in 11 months that Dest is faced with a significant choice tied into his career and his development. Last October, he spurned the Netherlands' late advances for the U.S. men's national team, sorting his international future for good.

A club decision isn't as binding—nor is one forced right now; he's under contract at Ajax through 2022, though De Telegraaf reports the club is anticipating his departure—but it will still influence the formative years of his career. As with most moves of this nature, there are potential benefits and drawbacks to both. On one hand there's Bayern Munich, the reigning treble winner who appears to be as ruthless as ever. Dest needs to look no further than the other side of the field to envision the possibilities for a teenage fullback at Allianz Arena. Alphonso Davies, also 19, thrived in Bayern's setup as a left back a season ago and is one of the world's preeminent rising stars. Simply putting on a Bayern kit does not make one great, but there's a clear protocol at Bayern, where if you're good enough, you're old enough, and Hansi Flick's system is conducive to bringing out the best from individual talents.

Right back is not necessarily a pressing need at Bayern. Benjamin Pavard won a World Cup for France by playing right back, and Joshua Kimmich has proved to be adept there as well. He started last month's Champions League final at right back and delivered the game-winning assist, for instance. Their ideal spots in Bayern's eyes appear to be in the center, though, with Pavard at center back and Kimmich in the midfield, channeling his inner Philipp Lahm. Having a player with Dest's potential—he's far from a finished and proven commodity, remember—offers tantalizing (and all-Concacaf) possibilities when pushing forward, but Bayern has cover if either he doesn't sign or the move doesn't pan out.

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On the other hand is Barcelona, which is unusually cash-strapped this summer. Every move it considers has had to be met with a corresponding sale. Its pursuit of Lyon's Memphis Depay, for instance, has been held up by continuing to have to offload forwards. Its ability to sign a new right back had been delayed by the need to sell Portugal international Nélson Semedo, who has headed to Wolverhampton in a move that would more than subsidize a purchase of Dest that is reported to be in the €25 million ($29.3 million) range. With time of the essence, the initial delay played into Bayern's favor, as neither Ajax nor Dest would wait around for Barcelona to get its house in order. With the opening clear, Barcelona is free to make its move.

That the cupboard of alternative right back options at Barcelona is bare (midfielder Sergi Roberto could feasibly deputize in the back as he has in the past) would give Dest both opportunity and a longer leash for an adjustment period that would figure to be unavoidable. Barcelona reportedly has another option in its sights in Norwich City's Max Aarons, but Dest is said to be the preferred target.

A unique wrinkle is that the coach who missed out on Dest's international choice, Ronald Koeman, is now involved in his recruitment again. That doesn't necessarily tilt the scales in Barcelona's favor (nor does the presence of U.S. youth forward Konrad de la Fuente), but it does present an element of familiarity, and the Ajax-to-Barcelona path is a well-worn one.

There's a lot to like about either landing spot. Bayern is an infinitely more stable club right now, one proven to provide opportunities to young players who are ready for them. Barcelona offers a chance to play with one of the best ever in Lionel Messi (for one year, at least), a clearer road to first-team minutes and the ability to help bring the club back into the spotlight for the right reasons. Either way, Champions League football should be in the offing for every year of Dest's next contract. It's an elite pair of options from which few players have the luxury of choosing.

In a season that has U.S. internationals playing key roles at Chelsea (Christian Pulisic), Borussia Dortmund (Gio Reyna), Juventus (Weston McKennie) and a Champions League semifinalist in RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams), Dest stands on the cusp of joining this group that should have continuous opportunities at the highest level—and doing so by achieving that status in reality, not by playing Career Mode on FIFA 21