Jefferson Lerma set for Bournemouth liftoff after Colombia guard of honour

Posted by On 12:49 PM

Jefferson Lerma set for Bournemouth liftoff after Colombia guard of honour

Bournemouth Jefferson Lerma set for Bournemouth liftoff after Colombia guard of honour

The midfielder attracted the admiration of Real Madrid while in Spain and wants to follow N’Golo Kanté’s lead in the Premier League

The tenacious Jefferson Lerma, left, was booked 19 times in 29 games for Levante.
The tenacious Jefferson Lerma, left, was booked 19 times in 29 games for Levante. Photograph: AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

This summer the World Cup came to El Cerrito, the Colombian municipality that directly translates as the Small Hill, as friends and family of Jefferson Lerma painted the town yellow. Locals, armed with placards and vuvuzelas, held street parties and huddled to watch the midfielder help his country to the last 16, where they came unstuck on penalties against England.

Colombia were out but Lerma had played in each of their four games in Russia and returned home to a hero’s welcome; he was mobbed for autographs, greeted by a huge banner that read orgullo del cerro, the pride of the hill, and that night he was given the most spectacular and surreal guard of honour. People lined the roads as Lerma was paraded across town, waving from the roof of a fire engine, its sirens drowned out by an unorthodox escort of beeping motorcyclists frantically flapping oversized Colombia flags. It proved some homecoming.

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A month later Lerma â€" rejected as a boy by Deportivo Pasto, Once Caldas and Bogotá FC, a team in the capital 150 miles away â€" had signed a five-year contract with Bournemouth after a club-record £25m deal was agreed with Levante. It was a fee that dwarfed the €600,000 Levante paid his first club, Atlético Huila, where Lerma made his debut aged 18, after a successful loan spell in Spain. Before heading to Dorset he sounded out his international teammates Davinson Sánchez and José Izquierdo, both of whom gave glowing references of the Premier League they joined last year. Yerry Mina and Carlos Sánchez arrived on deadline day in August, at Everton and West Ham respectively, to supplement the Colombian contingent in the top flight.

“It’s good to have some compatriots in the league here,” Lerma, who made his Colombia debut in 2017, says through an interpreter. “The World Cup was something very special, it was my reward after the hard work I had been doing for a long time. So I enjoyed every minute of that opportunity. We tried our best. Unfortunately our W orld Cup finished earlier than we wanted, because we were hoping to go further in the tournament. But that’s where we got and I am grateful to God for that.”

For a player booked 19 times across 29 matches last season, Lerma is softly spoken but it is hoped he will add more than just bite to the Bournemouth midfield. After playing against Real Madrid last season, Lerma bumped into the club’s president, Florentino Pérez, who congratulated him on his performance. “I thanked him and responded: ‘Bring me to Real Madrid,’ to which he said: ‘Keep on like that and you’ll come, you’ll see.’ I looked at him, smiled, and said: ‘OK,’” Lerma told AS.

Jefferson Lerma battles with Dele Alli during Colombia’s World Cup game against England. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Jefferson Lerma battles with Dele Alli during Colombia’s World Cup game against England. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Eddie Howe earmarked him as his primary transfer target this summer. Bournemouth’s manager admires his versatility â€" Lerma can also play at right-back â€" and describes him as an athletic, box-to-box midfielder. The player himself knows that he may need to curb his aggression. “I will try to get fewer cards,” he says. “The Spanish league is good but the Premier League is more competitive; I think my style will suit the Premier League better than La Liga. It is the best league in the world and that’s why I wanted to play in this league and compete. I will take it game by game, try to impress and I am sure I will get better and better. I am very passionate about coming here.”

Lerma has been building his fitness to get up to speed after a busy s ummer, with no real pre-season. His first action in a Bournemouth shirt was for the under-21s against Brentford B at Griffin Park last week and he played another 90 minutes against MK Dons in the 3-0 Carabao Cup win on Tuesday. After being eased into the first team, he could make his Premier League debut for Bournemouth â€" unbeaten this season â€" against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. If he can make as big a splash as one of his inspirations, then Lerma will be sure to leave a lasting impact. “I look up to N’Golo Kanté,” he says. “I think he is one of the best players at recovering the ball and working hard. I want to be like him and I feel I am a little bit like him. I also look up to players like Claude Makelele and Xabi Alonso. I am quite a strong player, capable of passing and recovering the ball.”

In training Lerma leans on an interpreter but he is learning English and the language barrier has also been eased by another new face, Diego Rico, a Spani sh left-back signed from Leganés against whom he played in La Liga. “It helps a lot that we are together here and both of us speak Spanish,” he says. “That will make it easier for both of us to learn English as quickly as possible. But football does not need a language and my other teammates are trying to help me as well.”

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Source: Google News Colombia | Netiz en 24 Colombia

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