Jefferson Lerma relishing chance to make Bournemouth Premier League debut against his idol, N'Golo Kante
The date is February 8th 2008 and Bournemouth have just been deducted 10 points by the Football League as punishment for debts of £10m forcing them into administration, leaving the south coast club facing a grim fight to remain in existence.
Fast forward a little over a decade to Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup second round win over MK Dons and the Cherries have the luxury of being able to name a ‘reserve’ team packed with more than £70m worth of talent.
Among that number, club record signing Jefferson Lerma, the £25m summer purchase from Levante, who was finally making his long-awaited maiden appearance for Eddie Howe’s side having spent the early weeks of the season building up match fitness.
If ever a transfer epitomised just how far Bournemouth, under their miracle-working manager, have come in a relatively short period of time it is that of Lerma.
An integral part of the Columbia team beaten by England on penalties in the round of 16 at this summer’s World Cup in Russia and at just 23 regarded as one of South America’s brightest young prospects.
“I know very little about Bournemouth,” Lerma was honest enough to admit as he faced the media for the first time since his history-making transfer from Spain.
“Bournemouth is a club which just came up and is very ambitious and working hard for the future. It is getting better and better. This is a historical moment in my life.”
Howe was fulsome in his praise of Lerma after his debut outing and the midfielder has extra incentive to hope he performed competently enough to be handed a Premier League bow at Chelsea tomorrow (Sat) and the chance to face hero N’Golo Kante.
“I look up to Kante as an example,” says Lerma, who also counts Claude Makelele and Champions League winner Xabi Alonso among his heroes. “I am a strong player and recover the ball very well and am a good passer.
“Kante is one of the best players at recovering balls and working hard and wants to be like him. We met in France but I never had the chance to speak to him.”
Lerma’s arrival paved the way for Harry Arter, one of the mainstays of Bournemouth’s amazing rise from League One to the Premier League, to leave the club and join Cardiff on loan. Another example of the changing times at the Vitality Stadium.
Howe believes Lerma will be a more cultured version of Arter, able to combine the Irishman’s tenacious and determined approach with the occasional goal and a wider range of passing.
Lerma may also take on Arter’s role as the Cherries’ leading collector of yellow cards after being booked a staggering 18 times in La Liga last season.
“Maybe our referees are more tolerant than in Spain,” quipped Howe when asked about his new acquisition’s disciplinary issues, while later acknowledging it is a facet to his game that needs channelling.
“I will do my best to get less cards than I did before,” said Lerma, communicating to the assembled press back as he does with his teammates; via an interpreter.
“The Spanish league is very good but the Premier League l is more competitive. My style will go better in the Premier than La Liga.”
Whether Lerma can live up to the hype or not one thing is for certain is that his arrival represents the latest in a wave of new eras down by the Dorset seaside.
A far cry indeed from that fateful day ten years ago when Bournemouth, sixth in the table heading into the weekend, were in danger of sinking into oblivion.
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