Facing football stars like Mohamed Salah might intimidate many, but for Crystal Palace midfielder Jefferson Lerma, it’s just another day at the office.
The summer arrival from Bournemouth has seamlessly integrated into Selhurst Park and is no stranger to challenging assignments throughout his career.
As the fourth-highest appearance maker among Colombians in Premier League history, Lerma has consistently faced tough opponents since his move to England in 2018.
Prior to that, he spent three seasons in LaLiga with Levante, competing against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi during their stints at Real Madrid and Barcelona.
In an exclusive interview with talkSPORT, Lerma expressed his experience facing football giants and discussed the upcoming task of confronting Salah at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
He stated, “I’ve been lucky enough to come up against some of the biggest stars, [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo in their best moments.
That’s given me more experience to come up against such good players. In terms of tomorrow, coming up against another great player in Salah, the most important thing is to stop him from having a good game.”
When asked about the best player he has faced, Lerma admitted, “It’s very difficult to say [who’s the best I’ve faced] but probably Cristiano Ronaldo.
They’re totally different but they’re all at the top of their game for a reason: they work hard, and that’s why they’re so successful.”
Discussing the early kick-off against Liverpool, Lerma acknowledged the Reds’ strength but expressed confidence in Palace’s ability to compete.
He said, “We know that Liverpool are in a good place and that’s why they’re at the top of the table.
I believe that we’ll be able to stop their players and be able to go head-to-head with each of them. It will be a great game.”
In his fourth year in the Premier League and first with Crystal Palace, Lerma had opportunities to move abroad during the summer but chose to stay in the English top flight.
He emphasized, “My priority was always to stay in the Premier League. I did have options with other leagues but having spoken to my family, we thought the best decision was to stay here.
I thought the best decision was to stay in the best league in the world. It has such an incredible atmosphere here, and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to stay.”