Of all the foreign signings made last summer, Gaetano Berardi was the player who Leeds United’s coaching staff rated as the most naturally suited to the Championship.
By the end of his first season he was seen as one of those who had coped well in new surroundings, notwithstanding an inauspicious start. Once viewed as a liability, Berardi has recovered to the point where he can expect to play regularly under new head coach Uwe Rosler.
Berardi, United’s Swiss full-back, says the transition from Sampdoria to Elland Road was difficult but he does not blame the differing styles of football for his disciplinary record at the start of last season. Two red cards in his first four games were simple mistakes on his part.
The 25-year-old was sent off on his debut in a League Cup game against Accrington Stanley, shown a straight red card for an injury-time tackle which resembled a kung-fu kick. His coach, David Hockaday, called it “reckless”.
On his third league start he was dismissed again for a second bookable offence – a loose and needless foul at a time when Leeds were beating Huddersfield Town 3-0.
“The first two or three months was difficult for me,” Berardi said. “It’s very different here to how Italian football is.
“But no, that wasn’t (the reason) for the red cards. I didn’t get the red cards because of that. It was me doing wrong.
“I was not happy but my opinion is that I stayed calm for the next month, I worked hard with the squad and then, when I came back, I was good. I learned from that. I did not like not being in the team.”
His disciplinary record improved markedly from that stage onwards. He did not receive another yellow card after November 1 and his temperament was altogether transformed. Berardi became more established in the last two months of the season, looking like a safe pair of hands at left-back.
“I felt I had a good season,” he said, and public feeling towards Berardi warmed further after he travelled to Charlton Athletic in April despite carrying a minor injury.
United’s 2-1 defeat at The Valley is infamous for the withdrawal of six of United’s other foreign players ahead of the match, a development which was widely seen as a protest against then head coach Neil Redfearn. Whether or not that perception was correct, Berardi kept himself away from the controversy.
United took him from Sampdoria last summer in part because of his versatility and his ability to play on either side of the defence.
Uwe Rosler has already used him in both positions, fielding him behind Sam Byram at York City last week and behind makeshift left winger Casper Sloth during Tuesday evening’s defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in Austria.
“It’s difficult to change every game – this Saturday left, next Saturday on the right,” Berardi said. “But I think I can play both.”
Leeds came up against a very accomplished Frankfurt side in the Austrian town of Eugendorf, taking the lead through Steve Morison but losing to second-half goals from Johannes Flum and Stefan Reinartz.
The friendly – a game marred by crowd trouble at full-time – was played out in sweltering heat with temperatures in Austria unusually hot.
“It was very hard in the weather, for us and for Frankfurt, but it’s important to play in these matches,” Beradi said.
“It was a good game. They played very well, very good on the ball and they won. It was was difficult and I think we have to do better but we are in a good way.”
Like a few players in United’s camp, Berardi believes Leeds should start the new Championship season with the ambition of competing for the top six.
“The target is to go into the play-offs,” he said. “It’s difficult but we have to do better than last season. The target is the play-offs.
“I’m very happy here but I’ll be more happy if we go to the play-offs. That would be a lot better.
“Last season was difficult for many players, players from other countries, and it was a little difficult for me.
“Next season I think it will be better.”