Gaetano Berardi in familiar territory at Leeds United after another summer of reflection

Leeds United defender Gaetano Berardi receives his marching orders against Derby County. (Getty)
Leeds United defender Gaetano Berardi receives his marching orders against Derby County. (Getty)
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Gaetano Berardi will begin his sixth campaign with Leeds United this weekend when the Whites raise the curtain on the upcoming Championship season.

There is some dark humour, though, in the fact that the 30-year-old will be left back in West Yorkshire when the club make the trip south to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City on Sunday.

For a second straight summer it has been one of reflection for the defender as he finished the campaign amongst red mist for a successive season.

A five-game ban resulted at the end of the 2017-18 campaign due to an ill-timed lunge against Sunderland, and in the play-offs in May he made another early exit. This time against Derby County with lasting consequences as the Whites Premier League bid came to an abrupt end.

“It’s been very hard,” he told the YEP.

“When we left the last game against Derby we all had difficult weeks. We had to forget the last game. It’s been an experience for everybody, but we move on. We need to be ready.

“I think everything is gone when we started pre-season.”

Berardi’s cult status at the club is linked to his play. Quiet and unassuming away from the football pitch the former Swiss international is a full-blooded defender on it. It's all or nothing and nothing in between.

An apology to team-mates and fans alike followed after he missed 10 games in total due to suspension the season before last.

“It’s a big mistake but I’ll stop making mistakes when I die," he said at the time. "There’s a big fire in me and without it I can’t play football. If I remove this fire I just go home and find a job. That’s all I can say.”

He redeemed himself quickly by playing his way into Marcelo Bielsa’s starting line-up as he began the new season in new surroundings. The same is needed again.

The Argentine has transformed Berardi into a ball-playing central defender away from his natural right-back role, and is said to be one of his favourites among the Whites squad. His self-awareness in his own abilities, though, and insistence in playing for the shirt wherever required in a new age of football are two factors in the adoration fans have for him.

Berardi opted out of having season-ending surgery on a hamstring rupture in October, instead returning after a six-month absence to help the club’s push in the latter stages of the season regardless of any longer term issues it could cause. Side before self as the club motto goes. And another move that added to his favourite tag.

Though with his suspension record in West Yorkshire he certainly has his doubters. And after another rash tackle and a swift punch of the Elland Road tunnel during his exit against the Rams he has another rebuild job on his hands.

“I’m here to train hard every day to show the team I am ready,” he added.

“If I have to play I will play. If not I will be there anyway to help them. I don’t care where I have to play. I just need to be ready to know what we have to do. To play right or left.

“You see sometimes I’m on the left side and Coops (Liam Cooper) is on the right side so we need to always be ready to change.”

Berardi's situation is one that is familiar after picking up a seventh red card of his Whites career – a joint club record alongside Alan Smith. And his vacant seat on the team bus this weekend says as much.

He knows, though, that there is only one way of making up for more lost time in a United shirt. And that is to right the wrongs on a difficult end to what was a thrilling campaign last term.

“It’s easy to speak,” he said.

“We are here to try to do better. We are all confident that we can show that we are a very good team.

"The motivation is still there, we lost a good chance last year but I think we know we can try again. We have all of the skills.”