US defender Dest joins AC Milan looking ahead to World Cup

MILAN (AP) — United States defender Sergiño Dest is hoping to get more playing time ahead of this year’s World Cup in Qatar after joining Serie A champion AC Milan on transfer deadline day.

Milan also has the right to buy Dest from Barcelona at the end of the season-long loan deal, with the fee reportedly fixed at 20 million euros ($19.9 million).

“I need to get minutes for the World Cup. I need to play. Not only for the World Cup, I just want to play always,” Dest said in an interview with Milan TV on Friday. “They (Milan) gave me a great opportunity. So I didn’t even think twice. I was like: I have to do it. I want to play. So it was an easy decision to make.”

Dest started his career at Ajax before moving to Barcelona two years ago for 21 million euros (then $24.7 million) but he never fully met expectations and couldn’t establish himself as a regular starter.

He had plenty of minutes in his first season but then his playing time gradually decreased and the 21-year-old Dest knew that, with the World Cup approaching in November, he needed to have a regular place in a team.

Dest has a Surinamese-American father and Dutch mother and chose to play for the United States instead of the Netherlands, where he was born and raised. He has scored two goals in 17 matches for the national team.

“Actually, everything happened really quickly, like in one day,” Dest said about the move to Milan. “I had to make, like, a decision really quick, to change my life, to go to another club, another country, another culture.

“I love this club. This is a club I wanted to play for when I was younger. I think this is a nice step for me, a good chance to play again. I’m really glad and honored to play for this club and I will give my best.”

Dest, who is a speedy defender, originally started off as a winger in the Ajax youth academy before making the switch to fullback.

“It was a good decision to put me at fullback because my qualities came out even more,” he said. “Because I could go forward, I could defend. I have stamina so I can run up and down.

“That was the best position and is the best position for me, right and left back. Just the best decision to make in professional football.”

Dest could face a tough debut. The Rossoneri’s next match on Saturday is the derby against city rival Inter Milan.

Milan finished ahead of second-place Inter for its first title in 11 years last season, but the positions were reversed the previous campaign.

“A different league again and it’s going to be a tough league. Some good opponents. We have good rivals,” Dest said.

He then pointed to the center of his chest, where a badge of the Italian flag sits on the Milan jersey — a sign of the reigning champion in Serie A.

“We have the badge in the middle,” Dest said, “so we need to keep it and make sure next year we still have it on our shirts.”

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