BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Colombian international Jefferson Lerma has revealed that staying in the Premier League was one of the main reasons he joined Crystal Palace last July when his contract with Bournemouth expired.
With a number of clubs across Europe interested in the midfielder, the 29-year-old revealed that continuing in the English top-flight was one of the main reasons he took the opportunity to move to SE25.
“It was one of my motivations when I decided to leave Bournemouth,” said Lerma, speaking to Premier League Productions. “I enjoy football here and I’m pleased to play in the Premier League. I believe it’s the best league in the world.
“I discussed it with my family, with my wife, with my family in Colombia. I asked them what would be best for me, for my family and everyone, where they wanted to see me play.
“It was a hard decision to make, especially for my daughter – she loves Bournemouth and everything about it [and] didn’t want to leave,” he added. “I knew I was going to change my family’s life with my transfer.
“My wife wanted to stay in England for the kids’ future, due to language reasons. You can learn a different language somewhere else in the world but her priority was for our kids to be native speakers of the language.
“Bournemouth is a place I’ll forever be grateful for. People loved me there and I was always supported by the fans. I could have stayed there but I made the decision to leave. I did it to encounter a new challenge.”
That new challenge saw a three-year contract signed in South London, with Lerma now creating more Premier League memories, a league he admitted he once dreamt of playing in before it came true when he signed for Bournemouth in 2018 from Spanish side Levante.
“The Premier League has always been a very competitive league. It’s a source of inspiration for young talents and is very much followed in South America,” said the Colombian international.
“It’s full of surprises: the bottom team may well defeat the top one, and so on…because you can’t feel it the same way when you watch it on the TV. You can’t really see everything from the outside.
“If you follow it, be it as a fan or as a player, you quickly realise that the feeling is different when you’re inside a stadium.”
Lerma made his Premier League debut away at Stamford Bridge, in a 2-0 loss against Chelsea in September 2018 and still has fond memories of the game.
“I enjoyed myself despite the defeat,” he said. “That was my first game in the Premier League as I was late joining the pre-season and I had to adapt but my timing was perfect to make my debut at Stamford Bridge. I think my performance was good anyway.
“(Ibrahim) Kante is one of the players that I look up to,” added Lerma about playing against one of his idols in that debut five years ago.
“I (also) looked up to Xabi Alonso and Ronaldinho, amongst others. I loved to watch (Claude) Makelele when he played for Chelsea and also when he played at Real Madrid – that was part of my journey towards the Premier League.”
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