One of the tried and true methods of reporting transfer rumors is to seek out a big but struggling club, zeroing in on assets who are either a) barely past their prime and in search of one last go around with a slightly smaller club, or b) a young prospect who can't quite crack the rotation at the mega-club in question. Roma has traveled both these paths in the past, singing big club veterans like Edin Dzeko and, most recently, Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. They haven't had quite as much success with the second path, but it remains a viable route toward improving your squad, both in the short and long terms, provided Roma can iron out a permanent transfer for the player in question.
All of which brings us to today's juicy rumor. According to Catalan outlet El Nacional, Roma are putting out feelers for Barcelona right-back Sergiño Dest. A dual American and Dutch citizen, Dest was once one of the hottest prospects in the game thanks to his impressive two-year run with Ajax, which he capped off by earning the club's Talent of the Year in 2020, an award he added to his 2019 U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year award, among other accolades.
Thanks to these plaudits, Barcelona signed the then 19-year-old on a €21 million transfer from Ajax, promptly slapping a €400 million release clause on his five-year contract. While he didn't exactly live up to that Messi-like clause, with one goal and three assists in roughly 2,600 minutes (all comps) during his debut season with Barcelona, Dest more than held his own for a teenager playing at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
While he's fallen down the pecking order this season, at only 21-years-old, Dest still has ample time to fulfill his enormous potential. If you're scared by that €400 million release clause, don't be. With Barca racking up debts reportedly exceeding one billion euros, the Catalan club should be motivated sellers.
The problem for Roma, as you could have guessed, was they can't exactly afford to pay €400 million for a 21-year-old full-back, no matter how promising he may be. Even the €30 million figure bandied about by Transfermarkt probably exceeds Roma's current grasp, but according to El Nacional, that won't stop Tiago Pinto from trying to arrange a loan with an option to buy arrangement, or at the very least, a transfer with deferred payments over several years.
Dest may not be a defensive dynamo, but he's able to compensate for his lack of shutdown defending with an incredibly promising attacking profile. According to Football Reference, over the past year, Dest has ranked in the 80th percentile or higher in Europe's five major leagues in a host of attacking categories, including dribbles completed, progressive carries, long passing percentage, expected goals, expected assists, and shots on target.
Dest is far from the finished product, but as one of the most promising American talents out there—and a legitimate stud U-23 prospect regardless of his passport—this is almost a no-brainer for Roma's American owners. In addition to right-back, Dest can also play on the left and in midfield and has even made a few spot appearances at winger for Barcelona this season, so he can help the Giallorossi in multiple areas.
Is this transfer a long shot? Absolutely, but it's one worth taking.