Position/s: Defensive Midfielder
Height: 5 ft 10 in
Current club: Bournemouth
At 28 years of age, Jefferson Lerma has enjoyed an impressive career that has seen him develop at Colombian side Atlético Huila, earn a move to Spanish outfit Levante, and become a key figure for the Colombian national team, playing in the 2018 World Cup for Los Cafeteros. Shortly after the tournament, Lerma joined AFC Bournemouth for a club-record €30 million, where he has since racked up nearly 200 appearances and played a key role in the Cherries’ successful promotion to the Premier League in 2021/22.
Lerma has made 33 appearances for Colombia and has scored one goal at international level. In 2021, Lerma was left out of the Colombia squad for the Copa América, which was supposedly due to an undisclosed personal matter, but he has since returned to the Colombian national team, playing five times in 2022.
He is known as a physically imposing defensive midfielder, capable of using his strength and stature to win battles on the pitch. He has been pivotal in the season stretch helping Bournemouth survive the dreaded drop (now mathematically safe from relegation), and he was vital last season when Bournemouth finished second to Fulham, with Scott Parker’s side going 15 matches unbeaten to start the season.
Nothing particularly stands out about Lerma’s statistical output apart from Clearances and Aerials won. These are the main facets of his game — he is someone who engages is plenty of physical duels, completes defensive actions, and uses his physical presence when going from box to box. This is shown in these stats, especially with his Aerials won as even at 5ft 10 in (not considering overly tall in sports terms) he wins 1.79 aerials a game which is in the top 86% amongst other midfielders in the world.
However, this season has been Lerma’s best goalscoring season, and he has come up clutch down the stretch for Bournemouth in securing safety from relegation. Lerma has scored 5 goals this season in the Premier League in 36 appearances, his best-ever goal-scoring season as a player.
Photo: Sky Sports Premier League YouTube
The above example shows the area Lerma arrived in to score his first goal of two against Leeds United. Lerma has made a habit out of arriving on the edge of the box/inside the box this season, which has led to him breaking his record number of goals in a season this campaign.
This is one of the standout improvements in Lerma’s game as before he has been known as a defensive-minded midfielder who protects the defense. But his ability to add goals to his game, and become a more box-to-box midfielder has shown a real progression which has benefited Bournemouth and himself.
The above figure shows that Lerma’s ball recoveries are still a strength, recovering 7.32 per 90 ranking in the top 79% amongst midfielders in the world. This shows Lerma is still putting in a good defensive shift, winning the ball back for his team, as well as adding goals to his game. He also excels in Aerials won per 90, and his Aerials won 1.79 per 90 and his % of Aerials Won 62.2% (top 88% amongst midfielders) is extremely impressive given he is only 5ft 10 in.
Jefferson Lerma is now profiled as a box-to-box midfielder who uses his power and strength to both win defensive duels and also to score goals in and around the box. Some similar profiles to Lerma would be Marten de Roon of Atlanta and Rubén Alcaraz of Cadiz CF. His improved skill set and experience could be exactly what teams in Germany or Italy come looking for, and I could especially see Lerma thriving in the Serie A with this new box-to-box style he has acquired.
Bournemouth have proved the doubters wrong and survived the drop by a comfortable margin under Gary O’Neil, and Lerma has been vital in their successful return to England’s top-flight. With his contract set to expire this summer, it remains to be seen if Bournemouth manage to extend his contract or if he ends up departing the Vitality, but one thing’s for sure: he certainly won’t be short of interest.
By: Connor Holden / @ConnorHolden00
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / David Horton – CameraSport