It has been an amazing 12 months for Sergino Dest. Last July he made a full debut for Ajax and then quickly established himself as one of their key first-team players thanks to a fearlessness in possession and determination to succeed.
The modern day full-back is fast becoming one of the most interesting roles in the game, and Dest's rise quickly led to a decision over which national team to represent, with the 18-year-old opting for the United States over the Netherlands in October. He now has three U.S. international appearances to his name.
But Dest has a new dilemma: What does he do with his club career? Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are all being linked with Dest, and he has to consider how he builds the next step of his career.
At this stage, Bayern are clearly making the first move to sign him. He was first linked with a switch to Bavaria in May, and sources in Germany have confirmed to Bleacher Report that the Bundesliga champions are actively pursuing him ahead of next season.
"He is the No. 1 target in that position, and there is a real belief that the deal can happen," our insider explained. "But at the moment, no agreement is close."
A prime reason for that is that Bayern have tried to open up the potential of a loan move, but Ajax are not interested. Dest can leave the Dutch champions, but only at the right price.
Sources indicated to B/R that Bayern have also been monitoring AS Monaco's Benjamin Henrichs as a new option at right-back but are looking at Dest as a more realistic option because there is a feeling Henrichs is close to agreeing a move to RB Leipzig.
How would Bayern work out for Dest at this stage?
Marc Geschwind is a football analyst for EIF Soccer and a lifelong Ajax supporter who has watched Dest's emergence closer than most.
"Dest would provide Bayern with play similar to what they're getting from the other prodigal North American, Alphonso Davies," Geschwind says. "He's quicker, more technical and better going forward than Benjamin Pavard. He may not necessarily beat him out—even though I'm sure Dest would fancy his chances—but he'd be a terrific alternative, and the club would likely see him as a better option in games Bayern are expected to dominate, presenting more chances for minutes.
"Plus, he might think there's an added opportunity for minutes at left-back. David Alaba has moved to centre-back, and their other left-back, Lucas Hernandez, is a better central defender, so they might even see Dest as a back-up option to Davies on the left side. That would give him another chance to earn more minutes over the course of a long season."
The development and role of Canada international Davies is indeed one of the factors Bayern are using to entice Dest to Germany, sources told B/R.
A key factor here, though, is the interest of Barcelona—Dest's childhood team. He adores the club, and his dream is to play for them, figures close to the player say. The bond between Ajax and Barcelona thanks to Johan Cruyff suggests it would be a promising path to take, as Frenkie de Jong has recently experienced.
But is that likely? Holding out for Barca and ignoring Bayern's overtures could be risky, as the Spanish club have limited funds available for transfers this summer.
They have touched base with agent Joes Blakborn in the past but no firm offer has yet landed.
Unless they manage to offload players and Nelson Semedo is one of them, Dest is unlikely to get the offer he wants.
As for PSG, they are beginning to look at Dest's valuation and how he fits in with their current setup. It will take more than €20 million to sign Dest, and Ajax are willing to listen to serious offers. Strengthening both flanks of the team at PSG is going to be a priority, sources say, and there is little doubt Dest would thrive in Ligue 1.
Still, at the age of 19, there is a thought that Dest is happy to stay in Amsterdam a while longer.
Geschwind has seen plenty of examples where upcoming talents opt for an exciting transfer but then struggle to adapt: "Young players need consistent minutes in order to develop, and that's what he'll continue to have at Ajax. He's been brought up in the youth academy, he knows the system, he knows the players and he has Erik ten Hag's trust. He's just won young player of the season, and he'll only keep growing from here.
"I don't think any youngster, whether at Ajax or elsewhere, should really look to leave after one full professional season or less. Leaving too early can be hugely detrimental to individual growth as we've seen over the years with the likes of Ryan Babel, Roysten Drenthe, Renato Sanches and others because you aren't guaranteed those unbelievably crucial minutes. It's hard to move to a new country and new team, and it's hard to displace proven internationals who have played well for years. So, it's a big risk.
"Some thrive, but others don't. And while I love Dest's ability, sometimes even the best and most talented can fail when moving to a big club."
Dest is undoubtedly one of U.S. Soccer's most exciting players, and he has the potential for a long career at the highest level, but the decision over his next club is going to be crucial.
Sources say there is every chance he could stay at Ajax a little longer—but there is also an awareness that few 19-year-old footballers are pursued by clubs as big as Bayern, Barca and PSG at the same time
Turning down any of them will be difficult.