CHERRIES officials are facing a race against time to sign Jefferson Lerma ahead of the new season.

The Colombian international has been a long-time target for Cherries boss Eddie Howe.

Lerma currently plies his trade in Spain with Levante, Cherries' opponents in a pre-season friendly during their training camp in La Manga.

The Valencia-based club this week rejected a significant bid from Cherries – believed to have been €22.2million and not £22.2m, as was first reported.

It is understood Cherries upped their offer having tabled a bid of €19m last week, which was also dismissed by Levante.

Lerma, who helped Colombia reach the last 16 of the World Cup, is understood to have his heart set on playing in the Premier League.

And he apparently handed in a transfer request after Cherries' latest offer had been turned down.

Reports in Spain suggest Levante will stick to their guns and will not allow the player to leave in the transfer window, despite it being a potential record sale for the La Liga club.

An article in Superdeporte, the leading sports newspaper in Valencia, suggested Cherries had "formally threatened" to pull out of talks and walk away from a potential deal unless their latest offer was accepted.

Cherries' bid is understood to make provision for a further €2m in add-ons plus a sizeable sell-on fee, bringing the package to at least €30m.

Central midfielder Lerma penned a four-year deal with Levante when he signed permanently from Atletico Huila for a fee of around €600,000 in July 2016.

The 23-year-old, who can also play at right-back, extended his contract at the Ciutat de Valencia at the end of last season and has a release clause of €60m.

These clauses are commonplace in Spanish contracts and are often not met when players leave.

Lerma played all four games for Colombia at the World Cup where they eventually went out on penalties to England following a fiesty contest during which he was substituted in the second half.

The summer transfer window closes on August 9, two days before Cherries kick off their Premier League campaign against Cardiff at Vitality Stadium.