IF SOMEONE cared to explain the meaning of the English phrase ‘Jeykll and Hyde’ to Gaetano Berardi and his Italian wife, chances are that they would nod their heads quickly in unison.
Sometimes, appearances can be deceptive.
A ferocious competitor on the pitch, Berardi is unassuming and quietly-spoken off it.
Confrontation is in the Swiss defender’s DNA.
It was there for all to see on his return from a dislocated shoulder in Tuesday’s Carabao Cup tie at Turf Moor when he copped a nasty cut just below his right eye following an incident at a corner with a Burnley rival. An occupational hazard perhaps.
Off the pitch, Berardi goes about his business under the radar like several Leeds ‘hard men’ of yore. Think David Batty and you get the drift.
You sense that Berardi prefers to shun the limelight and that he is someone who likes nothing better than spending quiet time with his wife after straining every sinew in his workplace – in training and on matchdays.
On those competitive tendencies, Berardi – hoping to make his return to the fray in the league this afternoon with his last appearance coming on the opening day of the season at Bolton Wanderers – said: “I have been like this since I have been very young and I go to the situations (on the pitch).
“But not every time, not if I go into the city centre.
“I am very quiet with the people, but available to speak – no problem.
“But I am always ready to go in every difficult (pitch) situation and in every session. I try to be hard as it is my style. If I am not hard, I can’t play football maybe.
“My wife knows better about this. But she can say that I am very quiet.”
Like United head Thomas Christiansen, Berardi is loathe to make outlandish predictions and will not get carried away following Leeds’s exhilarating start to the season, but he has opted to make one telling prediction.
Namely that the ‘war wound’ that he was sporting this week after catching an elbow from a Burnley player on Tuesday probably will not be his last during his time at United, whose fans see the Swiss as a kindred spirit.
I like to play like this and I always try to give my best and when I speak with some friends from Leeds, they say, ‘You have a good style, we like your style.’Leeds United’s Gaetano Berardi
Berardi, sent off three times in his Leeds career, acknowledges that he must curtail his temper at times – as he had to do on Tuesday night after being incensed at the challenge.
But equally, he will appreciate the futility of taking too much of the competitive edge away that highlights his game.
Leopards cannot wholly change their spots and it is his no-nonsense, ultra-committed style that has so endeared him to Leeds supporters.
Berardi, who cites AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini and Barcelona’s Carles Puyol as the two defenders he grew up idolising as a young player, said: “I was close to losing my head (on Tuesday), but I was thinking about my team-mates and not leaving them without a man. I tried to learn from a few years ago.
“I try to be a Leeds (type) player.
“I like to play like this and I always try to give my best and when I speak with some friends from Leeds, they say, ‘You have a good style, we like your style.’
“I have heard about Leeds of 10 to 15 years ago when they were in the Champions League. I saw some things of a lot of years ago that Leeds were a very, very hard team.”
Leeds could certainly have done with Berardi’s on-pitch qualities in last weekend’s meek loss at Millwall, when the visitors were outmuscled and outfought.
It was a rare blot on a vibrant landscape for Leeds in 2017-18, with Berardi now keen to make his mark after an injury-disrupted start to the season.
After penning a new deal in the summer, committing him to the club until 2020, the 29-year-old plans on hanging around for a good while yet to continue to play his part in the club’s overdue renaissance.
In an ideal world, he acknowledges that would involve him seeing out his career at Elland Road.
Berardi, who has made Yorkshire a ‘home from home’ and is now is his fourth season at Leeds, said: “I don’t know. I am not sure I will play a lot of years as my body is not so good because I have a lot of problems.
“But if I have to think about the end of my career, I can say this: it would be good (to stay at Leeds). “I have got three special clubs: Lugano, AC Milan and my first team where I started my career, Brescia.
“It is where my wife is from and now I have another (special club) in Leeds.”