Arsenal were interested in signing Calvin Bassey from Rangers in the summer transfer window, but did not push through the deal.
Bassey moved from Rangers to Ajax in a deal worth an initial £19.6million in July. The 22-year-old defender effectively became a replacement for Lisandro Martinez, who left Amsterdam to join Manchester United for £55m.
The Gunners, meanwhile, were looking for defensive reinforcements after offloading Konstantinos Mavropanos and Pablo Mari to Stuttgart and Monza respectively. In the end the return of William Saliba from his various loan spells in France meant Arsenal could pass on the signing of a central defender.
This season they have played Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes in the centre of defence, with Ben White at right-back and Rob Holding on the substitutes’ bench as a back-up. But things could have been different, had sporting director Edu pushed harder for Bassey.
“Arsenal contacted us and we let Rangers know, but they did not follow up,” a representative of Bassey’s agency, Unique Sports Group, told OwnGoalNigeria. “We also had interest from Aston Villa and West Ham, but in the end, Ajax presented the best offer not in terms of money, but for his development as they promised regular employment.”
Bassey has featured regularly since moving to Ajax and has contributed one goal and four assists from 13 appearances so far. However, his efforts in defence have drawn criticism, with his performances in the heavy losses against Napoli in the Champions League attracting lots of comments in the Netherlands.
The former Leicester player has generally been used in central defence, but he has also, at times, been used at left-back. For Dutch legend Ruud Gullit, Ajax manager Alfred Schreuder has to shoulder some of the blame for playing Bassey at left-back to accommodate Daley Blind in the middle.
“It sometimes seems like he has to play (Blind). It seems that everything is being turned to make him play. That’s how I see it,” he said. “At one point I saw that he was back in the centre against Napoli, so that Calvin Bassey suddenly had to play as left-back.”
He added: “Blind is one of the best players on the ball, but defensively… It’s hard for him right now. It seems like a place has to be created for him. It seems that way.”
Bassey joined Rangers from Leicester on a free transfer in the summer of 2020 before building his reputation with the Scottish side. He made 65 appearances over two seasons for Rangers, helping to win the Scottish Premiership and Scottish Cup, as well as finishing as runners-up in the Europa League.