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First team

POTS Top 5: Lerma on food, dancing & Watford

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Jefferson Lerma goes first as over the next five days we're celebrating the seasons of the players who polled in our top five for the supporters' Player of the Year award.

Arnaut Danjuma ultimately claimed the prestigious prize, and we start our countdown with Jefferson Lerma, the midfielder who came home fifth in your voting.

Across the long weekend we'll be reproducing similar features for the remaining top five in the voting.

The Colombian's interview and photo shoot (viewable in the gallery above) appeared in the final regular season MATCHDAY programme of the season for the match with Stoke City, the interview offering a special insight into Lerma and his time with the Cherries, reproduced below.

How is the situation in Colombia regarding Covid?

It’s a bit difficult at the moment. They are suffering a third wave there now so some ICU are close to collapse. They are vaccinating but the process is very slow.

Jonathan Woodgate has said you are one of the first names on his team-sheet – what does his belief in you mean?

To be honest, I was not aware of that. It is really rewarding to hear that from someone with such an extraordinary career, even playing for Real Madrid. It is great to be an important player for him and it is really satisfying to hear that.

What are your thoughts on Phil Billing’s advanced role?

Well, we changed the system and now play with a number ten and he is helping us get in the box, but he can also help the midfielders if needed.

How have you found the Championship?

It’s my second time playing in the second tier and the Championship is very tough.

It’s even harder than the Premier League and there is not one easy game. Four or five months ago, we were top of the league but, unfortunately, we had a streak of bad results and it was difficult to come out of it. You do not find any weak teams and we have had to keep fighting to go back to the Premier League.

Diego Rico says the Championship is more physical than the Premier League – do you agree?

Yes, yes. Every game is a battle. Maybe in the Premier League it’s easier to play. Here, there is a lot more man-to-man marking so it is harder to generate spaces.

You seemed to enjoy yourself in the Watford home game?

Yes, we played well. There was a little incident on the pitch, but these things happen in football. It was not a big deal, so I prefer to think about the positives. These are situations that happen with the heartrate up and any small incident can turn into a big controversy.

And what about the scenes on social media afterwards?

Oh, that can happen to any player. You get annoyed and have that reaction. I posted that tweet because of the abuse I was getting on my Twitter account.

I knew they were Watford fans and that’s why I put that emoticon with a bit of sarcasm. I did not mean to mock any player or any other colleague, it was just a response to the abuse. I think a bit of irony is not too harmful.

You scored your first goal for Colombia in October – what was that like?

It was such a happy moment. It was my first goal for my country and that’s a special moment for me or for any other player playing for their country. It’s an honour for me to have achieved that.

What’s your favourite Colombian dish?

Well, I have a few – Ajiaco, valluna steak, bandeja Paisa. But to be honest, I am happy having a rice with egg. In Spain, that’s called Cuban rice and that’s just the rice and the egg. I am happy if I get that.

Are you a good cook?

I can hold myself. I am not a chef, but I can cook. I can do a few dishes. I do not cook that often, mostly on Sundays or weekends I fancy cooking something.

How have you found living in Bournemouth?

Very good, I am happy to be living in Bournemouth. I have got my family here and they are a support to overcome the difficult moments, so I am happy.

It’s a good place for the kids to grow up, I take my daughter Sharon out to play a lot. It’s very different to living in Colombia but we are happy here.

Which music do you listen to?

My favourite type of music is salsa. I sometimes listen to Reggaeton, but that’s maybe one per cent of the time, the rest of the time it’s salsa. I also like ballads, rancheras, but my favourite is salsa. If you want to see me happy, play salsa and we will dance!

So, you enjoy dancing?

Yes, I dance and I can hold myself too.

All Colombian people can dance, can’t they?

Well, so they say. Let’s say 90 per cent can.

Who is the best midfielder of all time?

I always loved Xabi Alonso and Makelele. Alonso was technically amazing.

If you could swap places with any sportsperson, who would it be and why?

Jefferson Lerma! I have been blessed with how I have become so there is no need to swap for someone else. Maybe I may clone myself!

Who is going to win Copa Libertadores?

I watch the highlights because the time of the fixtures is a bit tricky. I have to train in the morning so cannot stay up watching the games but I catch the highlights on YouTube.

I would like America de Cali to win it, but they will have to work very hard for it because it’s a very tough tournament. River and Boca are two teams that are always favourite.

Other than Diego and Roro, who speaks the best Spanish in the squad?

Junior speaks Spanish well. He takes Spanish lessons and, when he talks to us, he can make himself understood.

Who has been your toughest opponent?

I think Real Madrid and Barcelona. When I played Barcelona, Iniesta, Neymar and Messi were there as were Modric, Kroos, Cristiano and Benzema.

In Spain, teams tend to keep the ball more so you are chasing it all the time. This makes it harder to attack because, once you get the ball back, you are tired.

In England, football is more direct. They attack you a lot but you get to attack as well. The team with most possession here is Manchester City, whose style of play is like the Spanish football, moving the ball a lot with a lot of passes.

Attacking them is very hard because you have to do so much defending that you run out of legs. It’s not fun to spend the whole game without the ball.

If you had to pick a five-a-side team from players you have played with, who would be in there?

This is hard! Asmir Begovic would be in goal and Nathan Ake at the back. I’d have Morales and Campaña, from Levante, and Dayron Pérez, who was my team-mate in Colombia.

What do you do in your spare time?

I like to spend time with my family. Go to a park with my daughter, go to the beach and read.

Apart from family and friends, who is the one person you would like to have lunch with and why?

The Lebron Brothers. They are singers from Puerto Rico and they are my favourite musicians.

What’s your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievements are to have taken part in the Olympics and the World Cup.

These are unforgettable. I feel very proud about those because there are so many professional football players but only a few chosen ones get to participate at these events.

Being picked in the squad of 23 was a very proud moment. Also, I feel blessed to have had the chance to play in La Liga and the Premier League. Not all players get that opportunity.

Do you have any superstitions?

I never go on the pitch before warming-up. Sometimes, we get to the stadium a couple of hours before the game and my team-mates have a look at the pitch, but I never do. I always cross myself before playing.

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