STEVE Cook knows Jefferson Lerma’s arrival will spice up competition for places but insists price tags count for nothing under boss Eddie Howe.

Cherries are set to shatter their record transfer fee by shelling out an initial £25million on the Colombian international, with the deal rising to £28m.

It eclipses the £20m paid to Chelsea for Nathan Ake 12 months ago – and dwarfs the £175,000 defender Cook cost Cherries from Brighton in 2012.

Cook has more than proved his worth to Cherries having played a key role in the club’s rise from the depths of League One to the Premier League.

And the 27-year-old says midfielder Lerma will have to do likewise once he has finalised his big-money move from La Liga outfit Levante.

Cook told the Daily Echo: “It is amazing we are being linked with a £25m player and just shows how far the club has come.

“It wasn’t long ago we were paying £4,000 for Harry Arter and £25,000 for Simon Francis. They are two of the best signings the club has ever made and are both still here.

“It is certainly a lot of money and you just hope that talking about the fee will not hinder him in any way. It is about how you perform on the pitch, not how much you cost.

“I have only seen him playing for Colombia in the World Cup and, if we do manage to land him, it would be excellent for the club and the players.

“He would bring a lot of experience and quality to the team and add to the group of high-class central midfielders we have here.

“His arrival would certainly add to competition for places because we all know there are no guarantees under the gaffer.

“The squad is looking really strong. David Brooks and Diego Rico have come in and fitted in really well. They will also be hoping to play and you can’t have enough quality players.

“For me, it is all about the team continuing to grow and players continuing to improve. If we do that, we will be in for another good season.

“During our end-of-season debriefs, the gaffer told us we had to step up and improve our fitness, mentality and performances on the pitch.

“As soon as the club and the players stop believing there is space to grow and improve that is when you can hit trouble.

“I would be lying if I said I couldn’t improve. I know I can so I need to add more. Every player in the changing room works extremely hard and we are a unique group.

“We will always strive to get better with the players we have and the players who come in and add to it.”

Lerma’s imminent arrival would bring to three the number of new signings made by Cherries during the transfer window.

Cook added: “It seems very popular to make a lot of signings but too many can disrupt a squad and we have a very tight-knit group.

“Everton signed a lot of players at the start of last season and really struggled. It is all about balance.

“The gaffer and the players here have never let anyone down. We have trust in the management and the staff.

“If there aren’t too many signings, I wouldn’t be too disappointed because I think we are looking very strong.”