The United defender say he hasn’t really seen owner Andrea Radrizzani’s criticism of the Leeds squad and says any comments he does have will be addressed directly to the Italian. Phil Hay reports.
The intriguing aspect of Andrea Radrizzani losing patience with Leeds United’s squad was the question of who in the dressing room would be first to respond. Pontus Jansson went as far last Saturday as expressing shame at the club’s results, an indication that the players were not oblivious to the debris around them, but Radrizzani upped the ante by openly slating their collective attitude.
Gaetano Berardi was served up for the media at Thorp Arch yesterday, claiming to have heard little of the radio interview in which Radrizzani criticised the squad’s “commitment, passion and spirit” but well aware that the comments would be raised.
What came from Berardi was a stone-cold stance and a promise to take the discussion up with United’s owner in person. “I hope to see him soon,” Berardi said.
The right-back, fairly or otherwise, has earned himself a reputation in his four seasons at Elland Road: a player who others would hesitate to cross.
A reaction like his – measured, quiet but almost bordering on insulted – might have been what Radrizzani wanted when he read the riot act over a tally of one win in 14 games and Leeds’ abject surrender since Christmas.
There was passion and spirit in Berardi’s voice, albeit in his own subtle tone.
Berardi, like many players at Elland Road, has been found wanting by the Championship this season but he countered the negative vibes around United’s results by saying nine months under Radrizzani’s ownership had been refreshing in comparison to previous years at the club, all of which played out with Massimo Cellino in the boardroom.
To an extent, that admission vindicated what Radrizzani had complained about: that this squad, regardless of their ability to take Leeds out of the Championship, could not have asked for more internal support.
“My first two seasons here were not great,” Berardi said. “If I see the results (this season) of course they are not good but we have seen a lot of good things from the club.
“There’s a good organisation because everyone knows what to do. First we have to respect our role in the club. As a player I can say that I saw a lot of improvement, a lot. I’m speaking about what the club have done and I can say that 100 per cent they made a lot of good things, so we are happy for that. Now we need more results.”
Infrastructure aside, there is no way for Leeds or Radrizzani to deny that the team have gone backwards since May. Berardi’s third campaign at Elland Road saw a near-miss with the play-offs, a near-miss which defied an overwhelmingly strong league position with seven games to go. The play-offs were almost Cellino’s swansong. With Radrizzani in sole control, Leeds have regressed towards an annoyingly familiar mid-table spot.
There was, understandably, frustration in the radio interview given by Radrizzani to Talksport on Tuesday and no holding back as he berated the feeble effort seen in a crucial game at Middlesbrough this month.
That match ended in a sorry 3-0 defeat. “I don’t want players in my team and representing Leeds United with this behaviour,” Radrizzani said. “I hope they can learn and be with me next year, playing with more commitment.”
Berardi refused to be drawn on those remarks. “I didn’t read it, what he said. Speaking with my team-mates, no-one said anything about it because the manager is doing well.
“We just focus on the game (against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday).
“Honestly, we don’t care about what he says because if I have to say something to him, I speak with him, not here.
“I’m going to speak with him for sure but if I’ve got something to say to him I will speak face-to-face.
“He’s a good man. When he’s with the team he likes to speak with all the players and say what he thinks. He can show every time positivity. I hope to see him soon.
“We all makes mistakes, of course. We did a lot of mistakes this season but this season is not over and we have to give our best every time, even in this bad moment.
“I know that the manager is doing his best for us, like the club is doing its best for us since the beginning of the season. I’m sure we’ll show that we can do more.”
The gradual decay of United’s campaign has made the heady days of September, when Leeds led their division and Thomas Christiansen could do no wrong, feel very distant.
Christiansen lost his job on February 4 and his replacement, Paul Heckingbottom, has one win in seven matches.
“I think we started good but my opinion, the start of the season is not just three or four games,” Berardi said.
“It is 10 or 15 games so I can’t say we started really well.
“I don’t know (why the season went wrong.) If we win then we win everybody (all together) and if we lose we lose everybody. I don’t know why exactly.”
Both Radrizzani and Heckingbottom have warned that the squad at Elland Road are playing to keep themselves in the picture next season. Berardi is one of numerous players who are under contract to 2020 or beyond having received a new deal in August. “I don’t know,” Berardi said when asked if his future and that of others was on the line. “We will see.”