Eddie Howe thinks Bournemouth would be ‘foolish’ to throw record signing Jefferson Lerma into the mix in Saturday’s Premier League opener against Cardiff.
Colombia midfielder Lerma completed his £25million switch from Levante this week – but boss Howe has revealed the World Cup star is not ready for action.
The Cherries will kick-start their fourth Premier League campaign by hosting Neil Warnock’s Cardiff, but must do so without two of their three summer recruits – with full-back Diego Rico also missing through suspension.
Howe conceded Bournemouth will hold Lerma back until the defensive midfielder is fully match fit.
‘Jefferson’s only had one training session with us,’ said Howe.
‘He’s come to us off the back of not training after the World Cup so that will be an issue for us, in the sense we’ve got to build up his fitness and help him acclimatise to the team and the squad.
‘So there may be a period where people don’t see him, but we want to get him up to speed.
‘I’m sure there’s other players who were at the World Cup who won’t play this weekend.
‘The difficulty for us is that Jefferson just hasn’t trained.
‘So to involve him ahead of players who have played a full pre-season would be foolish.
‘So we’ve got to make sure that when Jefferson steps onto the field he’s ready to play at his best level, so we’ll do some work with him behind the scenes.
‘If he’s not fit enough to play it would be foolish to play him. We would never tell a player to miss the whole of pre-season then step up and play.
‘It’s just not going to happen. So we’ll take our time with him and make sure he’s right.’
Junior Stanislas should be out for a month with knee trouble, while highly-rated young midfielder Kyle Taylor is sidelined with a muscle complaint.
Long-serving midfielder Harry Arter has joined Cardiff on loan, balancing out Bournemouth’s squad after the arrivals of Lerma, Rico and Wales forward David Brooks.
And manager Howe believes the Cherries have assembled the strongest squad yet in his time at the south coast club.
‘I think we’ve improved the squad, I’m very happy with our signings,’ he added.
‘All the 20 fit players we have at the moment, they are all established players good enough to play in the Premier League.
‘And when Junior Stanislas and Kyle Taylor are back fit, I think this is possibly the best squad I’ve ever had.
‘I think everyone’s very strong, there’s real competition for places in all departments.’