Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Ex-Leeds United Ace Urges Former Club To Offer This Defender A New Contract: Should Bielsa Comply?

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Abhinab Ghosh
A 26-year-old sports writer and an aspiring football coach who has road-tripped across the Scottish Highlands, but has never been to Wales. Sucker for cliff-hangers and catchy riffs. Known to be a grunger and not to be a stranger.

In an exclusive interview with MOT Leeds United, former Leeds goalkeeper Paul Robinson shared his thoughts on why Bielsa should offer Gaetano Berardi a new contract when he said,

“Berardi deserves a new contract because of the way he’s come in when he’s been needed this season.

“He’s come in when there have been injuries. He’s come in, like Middlesbrough, when Kalvin Phillips was out and Ben White moved up to the holding midfield role.

“He’s a great option to have. He’s a versatile player and he’s got the right mindset to come in and do the job when he’s needed.”

Robinson has made a good point with regards to Berardi’s versatility as he can play in a centre-back role or fill in on either side as a full-back. He has become a brilliant squad option at Marcelo Bielsa’s disposal. However, Berardi’s current contract at Elland Road is set to run out at the end of this campaign. So Leeds risk losing him for free unless they can tie him down to a new contract.

Berardi’s Sporadic Role At Elland Road

Berardi has been a sporadic presence for the Whites this season, but it is quite easy to overlook his impact when Bielsa’s squad has been struck with multiple injuries. The one-time Switzerland international has featured in 19 matches for Leeds this term, netting one goal while registering one assist in all competitions. More importantly, he has averaged 0.9 tackles, 1.1 interceptions and 2.3 clearances per 90 minutes in the English Championship this season (stats via whoscored). The 31-year-old’s numbers highlight his growing influence at the defensive end of the field.

Despite edging towards the twilight years of his playing career, Berardi has shown no signs of slowing down, so he could benefit from penning a fresh short-term contract. Another obvious option for the player could be to opt for a change of scenery so that he can earn regular playing time in the coming years. Berardi’s future might also hinge on whether the Whites can secure promotion back to the Premier League at the end of this campaign.

Mason Bennett of Derby County (R) is challenged by Gaetano Berardi of Leeds United during the Sky Bet Championship Play-off semi-final second leg match between Leeds United and Derby County at Elland Road on May 15, 2019, in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

What Does The Swiss Defender Offer On The Pitch?

Berardi has spent nearly six years at Leeds and has been a fantastic servant to the club. Even though he was seen more as a right-back, Bielsa has generally used him in the centre-back position. The Swiss talent has been an exemplary squad player for the West Yorkshire outfit. He works hard and can make some vital clearances for his side. However, the Sorengo-born defender can be a bit reckless at times and has often sold himself short when left isolated in a 1v1 footrace with the opposition.

Should Bielsa Offer Berardi A New Contract?

Therefore, Bielsa will be better off letting him go when the player’s contract runs out this summer, especially if the Argentine tactician can mastermind a promotion back to the English top-flight. Berardi cannot be trusted at the highest level as he has had mistakes creeping up in his game. The Whites should instead concentrate on bringing in a younger and more capable replacement for Berardi ahead of the new season.

At the same time, if Leeds somehow end up missing out on promotion this term, then they should listen to Robinson’s advice and offer Berardi a fresh short-term contract. His experience will undeniably help them cope with life in the Championship for another season and would provide the West Yorkshire club with a chance to promote some of their younger players like Oliver Casey and Pascal Struijk.

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