Gaetano Berardi will surely go down as a modern legend among Leeds United fans.
The centre-back is a lion on the pitch, and with 155 appearances to his name for the Whites, established himself as a stalwart during one of the most testing periods in the club’s history.
Of course, upon the expiry of his contract at Elland Road this summer, uncertainty has reigned over whether or not he would be returning to the club for a shot at the Premier League.
After a recent interview with Swiss outlet RSI Sport, however, it looks as if he could well be coming back to England in the near future.
The 32-year-old said: “I go walking a lot but it’s going well, even if it will be a long recovery.
“At the end of September I should go back to England to define everything and still stay at Leeds.”
And even taking sentimentality out of the equation, we think this would be a smart move from the Whites.
For one thing, Marcelo Bielsa isn’t exactly blessed with depth at heart of defence, and another covering option would surely be a good thing.
Secondly, Berardi’s stats from last season actually stack up pretty well compared to his career averages.
As per Wyscout, his pass completion rate was 6.5% higher than usual, while he also made more interceptions, won more aerial duels, and had a considerably higher total action success rate per 90 minutes.
His last full outing for Leeds was a prime example of what he can still offer the club too.
Berardi completed 98 minutes in the tight 1-0 win over Barnsley in July, and he looked absolutely watertight throughout.
With a 100% aerial duel win rate, six interceptions, and a general duel win rate that was 15.6% higher than his season average, this was a dominant display.
Above is a graphic detailing Berardi’s interceptions in that match.
The most telling thing here is the distribution.
Not only is he winning those vital headers in and around his own penalty area, but he’s also making interventions higher up the pitch – winning the ball back and getting his team moving in the right direction, just as Marcelo Bielsa likes.
Similarly, Berardi’s aerial duel map shows a player who is keen to win the first header high up the pitch and nip the danger in the bud as soon as possible.
All of that suits Bielsa’s agenda perfectly.
Berardi’s not too shabby on the ball either.
Even though his pass completion rate of 79% in this match was considerably lower than his season’s average, the pass map above shows that he covers ground well, and has a good range to his distribution.
When all is said and done, what more could you want from a defender other than a solid stopper and a decent passer?
Plain and simple, bringing Berardi back is a great idea.
In other Leeds United news, Rangers are bracing themselves over Ryan Kent.