EDDIE Howe believes Jefferson Lerma’s upcoming appearance in the Copa America can only be a good thing for Cherries, adding: “It’s a sign of our progression.”

Lerma is part of the Colombia squad which get their campaign underway against Argentina tomorrow evening (11pm).

The three-week long tournament, which is held in Brazil, will pit the top nations from South America against each other as well as two invited teams, which this year are Japan and Colombia’s Group B opponents Qatar.

Cherries midfielder Lerma, 24, also played at last summer's World Cup before the penalty shoot-out defeat to England and he will be looking to add to his nine senior international caps this summer with a game against Paraguay following the Qatar and Argentina clashes.

Tomorrow’s game in Salvador could see Lerma come up against five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi and Howe says that experience will benefit the Cherries man.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “It’s a sign of our progression and, for Jeff, I know how much his country means to him.

“Those type of games are going to be really important for him, his learning and his development to become the player he wants to be.

“It’s great for us because I think being exposed to the pressure that he will be under and the high-profile nature of the games can only serve him well.”

Lerma made a big impact during his first season in England.

Despite still struggling with the language barrier, the tough-tackling midfielder became a linchpin of Howe’s side following his club-record £25million move from Levante.

He made 32 appearances for the Cherries, 30 of which came in the Premier League, netting twice along the way including the club’s goal of the season for his final-day net-buster at Crystal Palace.

And Howe was happy with what he saw from his new recruit.

“I think Jeff did really well,” said the Cherries boss.

“First and foremost he stayed fit and he needed to, especially towards the end of the season with the long-term injury to Lewis Cook, Andrew Surman’s injury and Dan Gosling had also not always been fit.

“Without Jefferson in there holding it all together, it would have been really difficult for us.

“He got better and better throughout the season with stronger performances as he got to know our philosophy and how we play.

“Off the ball I think he has been very good for us, so it’s been a hugely impressive first season.”

Howe added: “I think he has had this season as a really good learning experience of how the Premier League works.

“There will be no surprises for him next season and that will be a very healthy thing for us.”