In Focus: Pressure on Bassey after shaky start at Ajax
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Matthew Storey
Calvin Bassey has endured a difficult start to life at Ajax
Calvin Bassey has endured a difficult start to life at Ajax

Calvin Bassey made a summer switch to Ajax after a stunning season for Rangers.

The Gers received a club-record £20million for the defender, who formed an integral part of their run to the Europa League final last term.

But Bassey's heralded arrival quickly turned sour as he was sent off on his debut against PSV Eindhoven in a Dutch Super Cup defeat in July.

Ahead of Ajax’s trip to Napoli tonight, we turn the spotlight on the 22-year-old and his difficult start to life in Amsterdam.

Big move

Bassey had been linked with Premier League clubs as well as those on the continent after his exploits in Glasgow.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s appointment last November saw him utilised in his preferred centre-half position after being used as a full-back by Steven Gerrard.

It allowed Bassey to finally thrive after swapping Leicester for Ibrox in 2020.

He played every minute of their run to the Europa League final once Van Bronckhorst came in and only missed Scottish Premiership action when he was being rested for their European exploits.

That is why Ajax made their move in the summer once Lisandro Martinez’s departure to Manchester United became inevitable.

Brutal assessment

Calvin Bassey's pass map in the Champions League this term
Calvin Bassey's pass map in the Champions League this term

After thrashing Bassey's old club Rangers 4-0 in their first Champions League game this term, the Dutch giants' European form has nosedived, while they sit second in the Eredivisie behind surprise leaders AZ Alkmaar.

A defeat at Liverpool was followed by a 6-1 thrashing at home to Napoli — and Bassey endured a torrid evening.

Ex-Ajax player turned pundit Wim Kieft said: "Calvin Bassey playing football hurts my eyes. Apart from his lack of quality on the ball, he is above all very rash. 

"Physically, he is fine, but Ajax cannot play the dominant game they like with him in the team."

Dose of realism

Bassey is not fazed by the step up in class nor the focus on his performances though.

Speaking last month, before the Napoli humbling, he was fully aware that his game was not yet up to scratch at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

He said: "In terms of learning the game and how to build up from the back, I still have a lot of work to do at Ajax.

"That’s why their interest came as a shock for me because I am a much bigger defender than the type they normally go for — look at Lisandro Martinez, for example.

"English-type players hardly ever go to Ajax or even abroad in general — but it was a no-brainer for me."

Passing emphasis

The change needed in Bassey's game is evident when you look at the difference in stats between seasons.

During Rangers' Europa League run, he was attempting 48.33 passes per 90 minutes. In Europe this year, that has leapt to 86.33.

Defensively he is making more tackles, more interceptions and more clearances than last term and more is expected of the Nigeria international.

Even though his passing accuracy has improved to 92.28%, that is still being picked apart by the Dutch media.

Ex-Ajax and PSV midfielder Marciano Vink said: "From the first moment I watched Bassey on his debut, I was shocked at how bad his passing was. 

"I believe that he is very strong and that he is powerful in the tackle, but at Ajax, something more is demanded, especially if you want to play the passing game.

"To blame everything on Bassey is a bit harsh, but I think he is typical of the scouting and purchasing from the club. When he gets the ball, there is no danger to an opponent. He has to improve quickly."

Promising signs

Calvin Bassey scored his first goal for Ajax at the weekend
Calvin Bassey scored his first goal for Ajax at the weekend

It is not all doom and gloom for Bassey though and he scored his first goal for the club in the 4-2 win at FC Volendam last Saturday.

After missing the first two Eredivisie clashes following his red card suspension, boss Alfred Schreuder has picked him for every game.

Bassey has overcome hurdles in his career before and his attitude shows he is willing to do so again.

But it has to happen quickly or Schreuder may feel benching the summer signing is the only option — keeping Napoli quiet tonight would be a good start. 


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