BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Colombian international Jefferson Lerma has set his sights high after moving to South London this past summer.
The Crystal Palace midfielder officially joined the Eagles in July after it was announced the previous month he would be leaving Bournemouth after five seasons.
Now settled in SE25, the player, who started his career with Colombian side Atletico Huila, is clear about what he wants to achieve in the Premier League going forward.
“I want to clinch international titles,” said the 29-year-old, speaking to Premier League Productions.
“We want to make it to the Champions League, to the Europa League and maybe fight at the top of the table. The scene here is open for any kind of target. We all want to make it; we all dream of it. That’s important.”
Lerma moved to England in August 2018 when he moved to the south coast from Spanish La Liga outfit Levante, going on to make 100 Premier League appearances for the Cherries across five seasons.
After his contract with Bournemouth expired, he then signed a three-year deal with the Eagles and revealed he felt immediately welcome in South London.
“Even though it’s still too soon, I have felt their warmth and harmony. Absolutely,” said Lerma about how the SE25 faithful have taken to him.
“Not only did I feel the connection with the fans but also with my teammates and with all the staff who work at the club. I’ve enjoyed every game I played here to the fullest. The atmosphere is great, I’m happy [and] I’m pleased to be here. I want to … bring joy to our fans.
“Everyone approached me when I arrived,” he added about the welcome from his teammates on moving to South London. “A special teammate is Jeffrey (Schlupp). He’s been a great friend with whom I had a natural connection, but with the rest too.
“To be honest, that’s been a great help for me. I believe the change (moving from Bournemouth to London) has been enormous.
“For instance, I realised that I have to leave home super early to get to places on time but I knew that would happen when I decided to leave the south. London is a bigger city, although I now have other opportunities for the kids and for us. We’re making the most of this beautiful spell.”
One of those players welcoming Lerma to his new club was Joachim Andersen. Just a few weeks before the transfer was sealed, the Danish defender was involved in an incident with Lerma which saw the Colombian’s nose broken in the clash between the two teams at Selhurst Park.
“I believe those are typical situations that you see in a game,” said Lerma about Andersen and the incident.
“He’s made tackles like that and so did I. Maybe the crowd felt it was more dangerous than it was, but it’s part of the game.
“We have a nice friendship; we defend the same colours and we have to remain united, so we can carry out the club’s project.
“I never asked why but it was quite clear, wasn’t it?” he added about wearing boxing gloves in his transfer reveal video for the Eagles. “After what happened before it was kind of a joke, to make the signature moment a bit of fun.
“What happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch. We’re teammates now. We’re obliged to defend our jersey, so that’s now an anecdote, an experience we shared, both of us. Now we must fight our rivals to defend our team.”
And after playing under Eddie Howe, Jason Tindall, Jonathan Woodgate, Scott Parker, and Gary O’Neil at Bournemouth, Lerma is now enjoying working and learning under his sixth English manager in a row.
“Each manager leaves a certain legacy on you, each one of them has a different lesson to offer,” said Lerma.
“He [Hodgson] always tells us the positives and the negatives as well as the aspects we have to improve, so that [is] really important for my growth. I’m an experienced player but I always want to keep developing and improving.
“My relationship with the coach is very good. He’s a very communicative manager and gives you the best tools to approach the game.”
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