Marcelo Bielsa wants Gaetano Berardi to take up a temporary coaching role at Leeds United while he recovers from his torn ACL, according to Angus Kinnear.
Berardi, 32, suffered a serious knee injury in the penultimate game of last season when Leeds beat Derby and although his contract expired as soon as the Whites won promotion, the one-time Swiss international has had his surgery paid for by the club and has since been offered a new deal while he recuperates.
Furthermore, Bielsa is also set to offer Berardi a role in his coaching team as he progresses towards playing again – which Kinnear admits is still some way away.
“This week we welcomed Gaetano Berardi back to Thorp Arch,” Kinnear wrote in the matchday programme for Monday’s clash against Wolves, as quoted by the Mirror.
“As supporters know, Gaetano cruelly tore his ACL at the end of last season contributing to our title-winning cause despite technically being out of contract.
“While we know Gaetano would have happily performed the operation himself – making the incision with a rusty stud key and stitching the wound with a discarded boot lace – the club had him treated at a state-of-the-art facility in Barcelona with the intention of extending his contract for another year.
“His return to the field is some way off, but the value he adds off the pitch is just as great as that on it and Marcelo has the intention of using his experience and passion in a coaching capacity as he recuperates.”
Leeds have acted with such grace and class over Berardi.
Football is increasingly criticised for becoming a business, rather than a sport, but this decision by the Whites shows that some board-room decisions are still made with the heart rather than the head.
Let’s face it, from a financial point of view, it doesn’t make any sense to offer Berardi a new contract. The ex-Sampdoria defender isn’t going to play for almost all of the season and there are plenty of players ahead of him in the pecking order at centre-back now.
But, Berardi is Leeds’ longest-serving player and one of the reasons why they are now a Premier League club once again.
He put his body on the line numerous of times for the Whites and unfortunately, that passion and braveness led to him suffering a serious injury at the end of last season.
Berardi’s contract is a thank you and a reminder that football still can be the beautiful game.
In other Leeds United news, Phil Hay has named two players who the Whites might try to sign in January.