'It's been a beautiful experience' - Gaetano Berardi on new deal, vows to play his part for Leeds United this season
Gaetano Berardi has vowed to play a part for Leeds United this season, whether he makes it back onto the pitch or not.
The Swiss defender had knee surgery after sustaining ligament damage late last season at Derby County, but has signed a fresh one-year contract with the Whites and will continue to rehabilitate at Thorp Arch.
He's grateful to the club for supporting him, given he was out of contract this summer.
"It's a good feeling, it's nice," he said.
"Of course it's not the best situation for me, the injury and for the club to sign a player like me in this moment it's a good feeling for me, I'm happy. I have to say thank you to the club.
"I hope they felt to do it [because of his contribution]."
Berardi knew injury was a possibility when he agreed a short-term extension in order to play in the final games of the Championship season, post-lockdown, but did so happily.
"I never live my life thinking of saving my ass," he said. "That's my job, I was ready for it."
The worst case scenario did happen, after the best case scenario was already achieved. Leeds were promoted as champions before they travelled to Pride Park for the game in which Berardi's injury occured.
Three months on he's recovering with the medical staff at Leeds and taking things 'day by day and week by week' because big improvements are difficult to see in the short term.
He does, however, harbour hopes of playing in the Premier League before the season is done. But even if he doesn't manage it, he feels part of the squad and capable of helping them, off the field.
"In my head [playing again] is possible because I'm not here just to spend time with the lads, chilling, I'm here trying to recover, taking my time, but in my head I'm sure that I will be fit in time to have my chance to train with the lads, to do my best and I'm sure I will play my big part in the team, playing or not playing," he said.
"I'm not desperate to be part of it, I am already part of it. I don't need to play or train with them, I'm doing my job in different ways. I think the team know this. That's why I'm here, not just to recover from my injury."
News of his deal has been welcomed by Leeds supporters who feel their club has done the right thing. After six years at Elland Road the former Sampdoria man doesn't quite feel like a Yorkshireman but he has memories to last a lifetime.
"I respect Yorkshire people a lot, Leeds people a lot and I will always have a nice memory of them," he said.
"A lot of changes [at the club], many good things, bad things but I will always take the best things in my head. It's good to remember what didn't work well, the bad things that made me react. In the six years I've been here it's been a beautiful experience."