Leeds United Nostalgia: Cult hero Berardi has proved a popular signing

Gaetano Berardi
Gaetano Berardi
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LEEDS United took their summer recruitment to nine on Thursday with the arrival of Ezgjan Alioski from Swiss side FC Lugano.

United will hope they have recruited another gem, rather like the one the club signed three years ago this Wednesday when Gaeatano Berardi checked in from Sampdoria.

Leeds were five months into life under Massimo Cellino and four weeks into the tenure of David Hockaday who had been brought in as Brian McDermott’s replacement on June 19.

Leeds had already signed five new players in the shape of goalkeepers Marco Silvestri and Stuart Taylor, midfielder Tommaso Bianchi and striker Souleymane Doukara.

On July 19, 2014, Berardi made it a half dozen and the Swiss defender has won the hearts of United’s fans since.

Berardi arrived having made just five appearances for Sampdoria the previous season and joined Leeds for an undisclosed fee on a two-year deal.

United started their first league game of the following season with Sam Byram and Stephen Warnock in the full- back positions and Berardi’s first appearance for Leeds came in the Capital One Cup clash at home to Accrington just under one month later but the full-back was sent off with one minute remaining.

His brutal attempted tackle that resembled a kung-fu kick was hardly the best start.

And after returning to the side for league clashes at Birmingham City and Bournemouth, the Swiss international again saw red in his fourth game for Leeds – the 3-0 win at home to Huddersfield Town on September 20.

After then being booked in his first game back– the 1-1 draw at home to Sheffield Wednesday – it meant Berardi had picked up two reds and two yellows in his first five games with Leeds.

It was looking like Leeds had signed a liability.

But in reality United recruited something rather different three years ago this Wednesday, a Mr Dependable, be it in his favoured position at right-back or even on the left side of defence last season, initially when regular left-back Charlie Taylor was injured and then at some points keeping Taylor out of the side.

With Berardi performing such a sterling job and Taylor now at Burnley, it gives new head coach Thomas Christiansen food for thought ahead of the new campaign.

The defender is now contracted at Leeds until the summer of 2018 having signed a new deal at Leeds on September 21, 2016, keeping him here until then.

“I’m very happy here,” said Berardi at the time.

“The city and everything is very good.

“Last season the first two or three months were difficult for me and for the other new players.

“This time I started the pre-season and that is very important.

“My body is better and I feel fitter.”

And Berardi has continued to get better and got better for Leeds while cleaning up his disciplinary act at the same time. The defender did earn his third red card in a Leeds shirt in November 2015 after clashing with Sheffield Wednesday’s Leon Best but most agreed that his reaction to Best’s crude elbow challenge was understandable.

After returning the side in March, the defender was then booked in three consecutive matches yet, whilst admittedly being sent off three times for Leeds, the defender has only been booked 10 times in 82 appearances.

Not bad going for a full-back who has rarely been first choice with the likes of Byram, Taylor and now the excellent Luke Ayling in tow.

But Berardi has become a player Leeds can rely on and now needs 18 more appearances for a Whites century which will be rightly applauded by his appreciative fans.