Earlier this week, MLSSoccer.com’s Tom Bogert reported that Colorado Rapids midfielder Cole Bassett rejected a formal offer to move to Portuguese powerhouse, S.L. Benfica, during the European transfer window that officially closed Tuesday evening.
During the past 60+ days, there has been considerable speculation about whether or not the 20-year-old Colorado Rush/Rapids Academy product would follow in the footsteps of Sam Vines, and move on to both fulfill his dreams and further his development with a European team.
Bassett spoke at length with the Burgundy Wave about the proposed transfer and his reasoning to stay stateside this afternoon after he logged in two hours of training on Wednesday morning.
Bassett confirmed that negotiations with Benfica became serious in mid-August. Bassett said the conversations between the two clubs started in early July. He learned of the terms and conditions of the offer while the Rapids were on their recent Houston-Los Angeles road trip.
After consulting with his agent, family, members of the Rapids Front Office, and head coach Robin Fraser, plus taking time to self-reflect, he decided to pass on the flattering overture to become a member of the Benfica organization. Bassett took to heart Fraser’s perspectives and advice, who he believes is genuinely attending to his development and growth as a rising professional.
Above all, the self-confident young man believed he deserved better than what Benfica was offering him. The terms of the transfer included him starting with the Benfica “B” squad and working his way up to the first team.
“It was a tough decision because of the stature of the club,” Bassett said. “They are a Champions League club and are one of the best clubs of all time. It was just not the best step for me at the moment. I feel I am in a good place here. I see the team that we have and it has the best chance to win a trophy, whether it is Supporters’ Shield or MLS Cup.”
He continued: “For me, I was not 100% on it, I felt I should just stay the year out, try to do my best for the team, and hopefully in the winter everything else happens.”
Given that the Primeira Liga club has a history of acquiring talent-filled youth prospects who then fight it out in their lower ranks, Bassett thinks he was worthy of being on a first team and is willing to hold out for a better opportunity.
“The main thing for me is, one, the team that we have here is hard to pass up on. We have a team that can win a trophy,” he said. “And two, as has already been reported, I would probably have started playing games on the ‘B’ team and train with the first team. For me, I am never one who doubts myself. I think I could have gone over there and made an impression to get moved up to the first team. But at this age, I need to be playing games consistently and at a certain level as well. And personally, this is nothing against Benfica, but I felt I was above that. If it was a straight first-team gig, there would be no questioning that I would have made the decision. If this offer came to me when I first came into the league a few years ago, I would have taken it, but not now with how well the MLS League is going.”
As for his point about the Rapids competing for trophies, Bassett believes in the depth of the squad and the camaraderie in the locker room. “I have been part of teams in the past couple of years where we had a few bad eggs in the locker room. When things got tough, we wouldn’t turn things around quickly,” he admitted. “I do not think this team has lost two in a row in a while. We always find a way to bounce back. This team has resilience, and I think we have a good group of players that want to be around each other and win.”
Bassett added, “And we have a coach, even though there are times that guys are left out because we have so much competition, who has the right people on the field at the right time. So it is really trusting him, playing for him, and play for the badge. And I think that will help us win a trophy.”
Bassett closed the interview with one last statement that confirms his conviction that he made the right decision to stay put in Colorado. “I would have not stayed otherwise if I really didn’t believe that I could do something special in this last year. I probably would have went. But I see the same in other guys on the team that maybe also want to make the same step as me, and it could be their last year. We all want to go for it this year and I think we have the team that can do it.”
It has been reported that both Anderlecht and Vitesse have also pursued Bassett.