Marcelo Bielsa Leeds United favourite casts transfer verdict on current White and praises ‘talent’

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Marcelo Bielsa favourite Gaetano Berardi is a big fan of the men playing in one of his positions in the current Leeds United team.

The Swiss defender spent seven years at Elland Road and played an important role in the promotion season under Bielsa, making 22 appearances en route to a Championship winner's medal. He was a player Bielsa described as a ‘reference’ for everyone at Thorp Arch and a firm fan favourite, thanks to his all-action and often brutally physical style of play. Though Berardi could and did play full-back for the Whites, he was predominantly a centre-half during the 2019/20 campaign. And having played 24 times alongside one of the club's most successful loan signings in Ben White, now of Arsenal, Berardi believes Leeds should this season's loanee central defender a permanent signing.

Writing in his column for the latest edition of The Square Ball fanzine, the 35-year-old said: "What I'm watching from Leeds this season is something really good. Joe Rodon is very solid. He knows how to defend well, and he plays with something that I really like - he plays with no fear. If Leeds can sign him permanently, it will be money well spent."

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Berardi has also been impressed with Pascal Struijk, who was emerging from the Under 21s team to feature briefly for the senior side during the run to the second tier title. This season Struijk has been a main man for Leeds, taking on a key role in Farke's possession game and forming a solid defensive partnership next to Rodon. "Pascal Struijk is gaining more confidence year by year, becoming a strong player," said Berardi. "I'm really happy for him."

Ethan Ampadu, who was signed as a defensive midfielder but in recent weeks has deputised for Struijk during the Dutchman's injury absence, is another to have caught Berardi's eye. And at the top end of the pitch, Georginio Rutter has won praise from the Elland Road cult hero. "Georginio Rutter is a talent," he wrote. "We can all see that. Having a player like him in the squad makes you feel stronger. The attitude he has in games is great, doing everything he can to create and score goals and make the team win."

Rutter arrived at Leeds in January 2023 for a club record fee but struggled to break into the team under successive managers as the Whites slipped out of the Premier League. This season under Farke he has begun to re-write his Leeds spell in earnest, scoring five goals and adding nine assists as a creative force in the attacking line. Rutter spent the vast majority of the season as a centre forward, playing ahead of Joel Piroe, before a recent swap to number 10 behind Patrick Bamford.