Phil Hay has said that Gaetano Berardi is closing in on his return to action after the Leeds United centre-back came through his first training sessions successfully.

Berardi has been out since the tail-end of last season when he picked up an ACL injury in the game against Derby County.

He was out of contract after the season but Leeds did the right thing and offered him another year.

That could now see Berardi make his Premier League debut in the second half of the season.

That would be a major boost for Leeds given the problems the club has at the back.

Robin Koch and Diego Llorente are both out and Kalvin Phillips hobbled off in the game against Palace on Monday.

Writing in The Athletic, Phil Hay reported on the first few days back at Thorp Arch for Berardi and it’s great news.

“This Monday, his tailored rehabilitation programme moved into its last phase as Berardi resumed training with Leeds at Thorp Arch,” Hay wrote.

“His initial sessions are understood to have gone well and between murderball and planned appearances for the under-23s, he is a handful of steps away from Premier League football.

“The longest-serving member of Leeds’ squad — six and a half years and counting — has life in him yet and light on the horizon.”

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Berardi is a Leeds hero

If Leeds fans loved Berardi before – and his passion and combative nature had already made him a hero – what he’s done for us in the past few months should make him a legend.

He willingly signed an extension to his contract last season with the delayed end to the Championship, despite the fact that it could jeopardise his future.

The ACL injury he picked up is exactly what other soon-to-be free agents who refused to sign extensions wanted to avoid.

For Berardi, it was a price worth paying for promotion with Leeds.

Not only that, but when Leeds offered him a new contract, he put off signing it as, according to Hay, “he was reluctant to draw a wage when surgeons were projecting an absence of six to nine months.”

Now, Berardi could have a very important part to play this season.

With Koch and Llorente out, Leeds are walking a tightrope. If Phillips is out for the Arsenal game it brings up that age-old problem of who replaces him.

Pascal Struijk has been doing brilliantly at the back and Bielsa will surely be reluctant to meddle with that, but if not Struijk then who?

Berardi would give Bielsa real options at the back.

In other Leeds United news, Watch how Crystal Palace fans react to incredible skill from Leeds winger Raphinha

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