Jeffinho, or to give him his full name, Jefferson Ruan Pereira dos Santos, arrived at Lyon at the end of the January 2023 transfer window. His move from Botafogo in Brazil’s Série A made him the first player to sign for Lyon from a partner club in new owner John Textor’s portfolio. The first of what Lyon will hope becomes a regular pipeline of young Brazilian talent.
The official transfer fee was €10 million, although the negotiations over the price probably weren’t too heated, seeing as the same person owns both the buying and selling parties. Nevertheless, it feels like a reasonable amount for a promising, yet unproven, forward.
A native of Volta Redonda, in Rio de Janeiro state, Jeffinho spent his formative years training at Pelé Academia before joining local club Resende, who compete in the Campeonato Carioca (Rio State Championship). He made his debut for them, aged twenty, in 2020, and scored five goals in a total of twenty five appearances for the perennial strugglers, either side of a short loan spell at Gama.
In April 2022, Jeffinho got his big break when he was loaned to Botafogo. His performances for them in Série A, predominantly on the left side of attack, swiftly prompted them to make the move permanent for a fee of around €300,000 in August that year. He was a regular starter for the remainder of the season, scoring twice as Botafogo finished in mid-table.
Jeffinho made his final appearance for Botafogo in a 3-0 defeat away at Club Athletico Paranaense on the last day of the 2022 Série A season, before domestic football shut down for the World Cup in mid-November. Among his teammates on the day was former Lyon defender Marçal, who had recently joined Botafogo on a free transfer from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Perhaps Marçal had been extolling the virtues of a life on the banks of the Rhône, for when the transfer window opened in the new year, negotiations began to move Jeffinho across the Atlantic, the €10 million fee representing a tidy profit for Botafogo on their modest outlay just five months earlier.
It’s not abundantly clear what Jeffinho did to justify such a dramatic inflation of his value in such a short space of time. Two goals in twenty-six league and cup appearances isn’t exactly eye-catching, and his arrival wasn’t particularly transformative for Botafogo’s fortunes on the field – they were 14th when he made his debut and finished 11th.
Nor has he ever attracted the attention of the national team setup, with no appearances to his name in the Brazil youth squads at any age group, so he didn’t arrive in Europe with a massive reputation either at home or abroad. At twenty-three, he should soon be moving into the ‘finished article’ category rather than simply ‘promising prospect’, so he needs to smooth off any rough edges and start repaying his transfer fee sooner rather than later.
Jeffinho made his Lyon debut as a 67th minute substitute for Rayan Cherki in a 3-1 away win over Angers in Ligue 1 and was a starter three days later at the Groupama Stadium in the Coupe de France quarter-finals against Grenoble. He scored the second goal of a 2-1 win in the 38th minute after a pass from Tagliafico, but was substituted for Moussa Dembélé at the interval.
Thereafter, he was largely used as a substitute as Lyon’s challenge for a European spot gradually faltered. He did make the starting line-up for the last three games of the season, and ended on a personal high with the consolation goal (his second for the club) in a 3-1 defeat at Nice on the final day.
The 2023-24 campaign will prove whether or not he has what it takes to hold down a regular place in the starting line-up, where he’ll be vying with Bradley Barcola and Amin Sarr for a place on the left side of Lyon’s front line. He’ll certainly need to improve on his goal return if he’s to become the latest Brazilian recruit to launch a successful European career in Lyon. Otherwise, he could find himself on loan back at Botafogo before too long.