Leeds United defender Gaetano Berardi was spotted at Thorp Arch this week as he made his long-awaited return to first team training. The 32-year-old had been forced out of action with an ACL injury, which saw him miss 204 days and 26 matches for the Whites last season, as per Transfermarkt.
He is also yet to make a single appearance this campaign and his task of getting back into the team has been that much harder after Leeds recruited new defensive options in the summer.
However, fans are delighted to see the return of Berardi to training and are hoping that it spells the start of his integration back into Marcelo Bielsa’s team. However, it’s not as simple as returning to training and fighting for his spot in the lineup.
Already plagued with a hefty injury history, the risk of picking up another problem runs high. Not only that, Berardi is pushing 33 and will be out of contract with the Whites this summer. Imaginably, no new terms have been discussed due to the extent of the defender’s injury, but with less than six months left, would there be much use in tabling a new offer?
Whilst injuries, specifically to their backline, have tormented Leeds this season, they have still managed to pull through. Bielsa’s quick-thinking and the versatility of players like Luke Ayling have arguably saved their season. With both Robin Koch and Diego Llorente out injured, it looked like a disaster for the retuning Premier League side.
However, they currently sit in a respectable tenth place in the table as they head into their clash with Arsenal this evening. This Leeds squad is a close-knit unit that has worked its way back to the top. Berardi played a small part in their promotion-winning campaign, before he picked up his injury towards the end but he was never a regular under Bielsa.
In fact, the Swiss man missed a total of 22 games due to simply being left on the bench or out of the squad completely. Leeds have established that they have adapted and then some without Berardi’s influence and whilst Bielsa will be pleased his recovery has gone well, having him as an option won’t mean too much to him in the final stretch of this season.