Dest at the double: USMNT star offers Messi another glimpse of Barcelona's bright future

Lionel Messi Sergino Dest Barcelona 2020-21Getty Images

Match statistics: Real Sociedad 1-6 Barcelona

First it was Ansu Fati. Then it was Pedri. Lately it has been Frenkie de Jong, Ilaix Moriba and more.

On Sunday, it was Sergino Dest's turn to offer Lionel Messi a glimpse of what the future could look like if the Argentine remains with Barcelona this summer.

The United States international may have been bought as a right-back, but more and more he is growing into his attacking responsibilities, with the 6-1 victory over Real Sociedad the apex of his Blaugrana career thus far.

The former Ajax star scored twice at Anoeta, with his goals making him the second-youngest American to score two or more goals in a game in Europe's top-five leagues behind Matthew Hoppe, as well as helping Barca keep the pressure on La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid heading into the upcoming international break.

Ronald Koeman has switched to a 3-4-3 formation in recent weeks, deploying De Jong at the heart of defence and allowing his wing-backs to pile forward and support attacks.

Far more comfortable attacking than when retreating, Dest has thrived in his new role.

Though his attacking returns are nothing to write home about - one goal and one assist in all competitions before Sunday - his ability to stretch the opposition defence and create overloads is key to the way Barca play when in possession.

Sergino Dest Messi Barcelona 2021

By keeping his width, Ousmane Dembele inside him is able to get himself closer to both the goal and Messi, while it also means Dest can be a goal threat himself.

No more so was that evident than when he drilled in Barca's second of the night having had the chance laid on by a superb Messi pass that took three La Real defenders out of the game.

Dest's finish was unerring into the bottom corner, and in coming so quickly after Antoine Griezmann's opener it took any belief the home side had of pulling off an upset away.

His second of the game was far less orthodox, with Dest rewarded for offering himself as a target for Jordi Alba at the back post when the attempted clearance bounced off him and past goalkeeper Alex Remiro.

Alba, like Dest, is enjoying his new attacking freedom on the left-hand side, and it was he who broke open Real Sociedad's resistance in the first half when his low cross found Dembele, who in turn saw his close-range effort saved by Remiro, only for Griezmann to net the rebound.

Koeman can likely trust the Spain international more than Dest given his experience, and there is no doubt that the USMNT star still has plenty to learn having only turned 20 in November.

He suffered more than most at the hands of Kylian Mbappe in the recent Champions League defeat against Paris Saint-Germain, and to hold down his current role for years to come he will have to continue working on his defensive capabilities.

But the early signs are good for a club whose focus, whether they care to admit it or not, remains the future of Messi.

Messi celebrate Barcelona 2021

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner got himself on the scoresheet here with a deft finish for Barca's fourth and a swept strike for the sixth, and in the week the club's new president, Joan Laporta, made an impassioned plea for him to sign a new contract, the signs are this Barca team are finally playing at a level suitable of their long--time leader.

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Dembele, who remember is still just 23, continues to get better having been given a run of games, and celebrated his recall to the France squad this week with a fine individual goal to make the score 5-0 before Ander Barrenetxea's late consolation and Messi's second of the night.

There are still questions to answer in this Barca XI, most notably what the future holds for Griezmann, but it is clear that if Messi stays, then the foundations are in place to build something special over the next half-decade or longer.

It is becoming clearer by the week that Dest will be part of the Camp Nou furniture as the rebuild picks up steam.