Bournemouth must resolve Jefferson Lerma contract impasse or risk losing him on a free
Since Bournemouth’s return to the Premier League this season, the club have had to overcome a number of tricky hurdles off the field.
The dramatic sacking of Scott Parker after just four league games into the season was the first major issue that prompted the club to decide to appoint Gary O’Neil as interim and then permanent head coach.
During this period of uncertainty, the club have continued development of their new training complex at Canford Magna while agreeing contract extensions for Dominic Solanke, David Brooks and Lewis Cook.
All of this has come amid a backdrop of a looming change of ownership, which Bournemouth expect the Premier League will officially ratify this week.
But Jefferson Lerma’s contract is the biggest off-field situation the club has yet to resolve. The Colombia international is Bournemouth’s record signing but has just six months left on his current contract.
Both the club and the players’ agent have long been locked in negotiations but with Lerma yet to accept a new contract offer and the January transfer window just three weeks away, Bournemouth fear losing him on a free transfer in the summer.
Why exactly hasn’t a new deal been agreed yet and is it really the end of the world if Lerma goes for nothing? To allow the athlete to explain.
There is a feeling that Lerma’s reluctance to commit to a new contract at Bournemouth stems from cultural differences rather than financial ones. Before joining Bournemouth, the Spanish-speaking midfielder spent three years with Levante when they played in Spain’s top flight. Lerma still calls Spain his second home and vacations there with his family every summer.
However, by the end of his current contract, Lerma will have spent five years at Bournemouth and is raising two young children – Derrick, one, and Sharon, three – it’s understood that a desire to return to a more familiar culture has played a significant part in his Played hesitation to sign a new contract.
Bournemouth have not been put off by this and have been keen to sign the 28-year-old on a new contract for the last two seasons – but a new deal is yet to be struck, talks are still ongoing. When the club were relegated to the Championship in 2020, Lerma was understandably reluctant to extend his contract as there was no guarantee of top-flight football and Bournemouth were not keen on loaning him at the time.
But it’s not as if Bournemouth refused to sell Lerma because of it. It’s understood the club haven’t received any permanent transfer offers for the defensive midfielder during his time at the South Coast. Apart from a few Spanish clubs who wanted to loan Lerma out after relegation, no club has officially offered to take Bournemouth’s most expensive player off their hands.
But on closer inspection, it becomes easier to see why Lerma didn’t have many suitors. Bournemouth paid £25m ($30.6m) for him in 2018 and any club looking to lure them would have had to pay significantly more for a sale to make financial sense. But for all his qualities, very few would attempt to claim Lerma was ever worth £40m ($49m).
As for Bournemouth, there should be offers in the upcoming January window when Lerma becomes available on a free transfer. Although the club has not fully surrendered to the prospect, the thought of parting ways with Lerma remains frustrating for them.
If he joins a top European club it would be a source of pride for everyone associated with Bournemouth. But for a club that prides itself on capitalizing on its player development, it would also be a huge disappointment to see Lerma leaving on a free transfer.
However, it should not be forgotten that Lerma is considered one of the best players in Bournemouth history and is a fan favourite. He was one of Bournemouth’s most important players, missing just four league games when he was available.
His reputation as an overly aggressive, antagonistic red card magnet ignores the more challenging sides of his game. Just check out his give-and-go with Solanke in the opening goal of the video below (against Reading last season).
He might not come as naturally to that kind of finesse as others, but for a no-nonsense defensive midfielder, Lerma made a very good intermediate No. 8 in Scott Parker’s 4-3-3 last season. A source close to Bournemouth, who asked not to be named to protect his relations, compared perceptions of Lerma to Napoli’s Andre-Frank Anguissa.
During his time at Fulham, the Cameroon international was not well appreciated outside of his club’s fanbase. But now at Napoli, who lead Serie A by seven points and top the Champions League group, Anguissa has become a far more respected player than at Craven Cottage. There is a thought Lerma could follow a similar path when he leaves Bournemouth in the summer.
His loyalty to the club and commitment to giving 110 per cent in every game means you would be hard pressed to find anyone associated with Bournemouth who would begrudge him his departure.
The club are expected to announce that the long-awaited takeover of Bill Foley has been officially approved by the Premier League this week. It remains to be seen whether the announcement of a contract extension for Lerma will follow.
(Picture above: Visionhaus/Getty Images))