Rangers signing Calvin Bassey ready to fill Nikola Katic void

Praise for defender’s blistering pace

Calvin Bassey has joined Rangers from Leicester City. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA
Calvin Bassey has joined Rangers from Leicester City. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA

New Rangers signing Calvin Bassey has promised the Ibrox faithful a “quick and dynamic” left-back who also feels well capable of filling the void left at centre-back by Nikola Katic who faces months out with a serious knee injury.

The 20-year-old is settling in Glasgow and looking to kickstart his senior career after coming through the youth and development squads at Leicester City without featuring for Brendan Rodgers’s first team.

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“I prefer left-back but I’ll do a job anywhere to be honest,” said the 20-year-old as he faced the media as a Rangers player for the first time yesterday. Steven Gerrard tied up the defender on a pre-contract deal earlier in the year and he penned a four-year contract when the transfer window opened.

Nikola Katic sustained a serious knee injury. Picture: Bill Murray / SNS

He comes north with glowing reports and added: “Wherever the gaffer decides to put me I’ll do the best I can. I don’t mind playing centre-back, obviously, and I wish Niko all the best in his recovery. We’re all working hard in training so whatever team the gaffer decides to put out you get on with it. If I do play centre-half I’ll be happy. I’ve seen Niko around, had a chat and wished him all the best.”

Blistering pace and very strong

Bassey’s former boss at Leicester City under-23s, Steve Beaglehole, is confident that his former charge will make his mark at Ibrox, whatever his position. “I have no doubt that he could step in and handle it, no problem at all,” said Beaglehole. “He has loads of personality, he is a strong character, he is not timid and he is a person who will relish playing for Rangers. He was an outstanding player for me at the under-23s last year.

“He is versatile and can play left-back like a wing back and is very exciting when he does push on and even by Premier League standards, he is very, very quick; blisteringly quick and strong.

Calvin Bassey in action for Leicester City reserves. Picture: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

“He can play centre-back, ideally in a back three. I was very sorry to see him leave and I know Rangers have a very talented player and [he] is only going to get better. He was training with the first team at Leicester. I think he was very close to getting an opportunity. I think he would have played in the first team. I am convinced he will go on and play at the highest level.”

Beaglehole added: “He doesn’t get fazed. He has got good, strong mental character.

“When Sir Alex Ferguson was at Manchester United he would say his players have to be a special type of player but they also have to have a special type of mentality.

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Can handle the pressure of playing for Rangers

“They are expected to play well, they are expected to go to the 97th minute and that sort of thing and that is what you need to be a Rangers player or Celtic player and I think he can handle it.”

Bassey has a cosmopolitan background. His parents are both Nigerian and he was born in Italy before moving to England when he was five, so he is eligible to represent all three countries. “To be honest right now I don’t have a preference on which country,” the defender said. “I didn’t need to be told how big a club Rangers are and at the moment all I’m doing is giving my all in training and looking to develop here then all of that [international football] will take care of itself later.”

Bassey was a youth player at the time of Leicester’s unforgettable Premier League title win under Claudio Ranieri in 2016, which he describes as a “brilliant atmosphere” to be in and around. “I enjoyed my time at Leicester but I’m focused on Rangers now and look to settle in as quickly as possible, make an impact and show how good I am,” he said.

Looking up to Real Madrid great

Asked to identify some of the players who have influenced him growing up, he said: “When I was younger Marcelo [Real Madrid and Brazil] was someone I looked up to.

“I think the game as changed a lot and I look now at guys like Alphonso Davies [Bayern Munich], he’s dynamic and strong. It’s all about adapting. I watch players and learn from them but I’d never say I want to be them, I want to be myself and play my game.”

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From young prospect in Premier League 2 to the Old Firm goldfish bowl is clearly a huge step, but Bassey is relishing it.

“It’s a massive club,” he said. “I’ve always felt some pressure since starting out at 15 but obviously this is a different kind of pressure. But I’ve never had anything easy.

“It will be a privilege to play for Rangers. We’ve got a great manager in Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister too, as well as Michael Beale as coach. It’s a nice feeling to be here and getting down to work hard.”

Rangers are hoping to go to France for a pre-season tournament next week then building towards that first league match behind closed doors at Aberdeen on 1 August, but there are still loose ends to be tied up from the pandemic-hit previous campaign. A Europa League last 16 second leg against Bayer Leverkusen, with Rangers trailing 3-1, is slated for the first midweek in August. European football was certainly part of the attraction for Bassey.

“I grew up watching European football, Champions League and Europa League and it’s somewhere you can make a statement,” he said. “Of course I want to be involved in that side of things.”

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