At the end of last season, Leeds United allowed Gaetano Berardi to leave the club after having made two Premier League appearances.
The 32-year-old suffered a serious injury that forced him to spend majority of the previous campaign away from the pitch and after having regained full fitness, and Marcelo Bielsa offered him opportunities in the final two league matches.
Berardi was honest enough to admit he wasn’t convinced about the hype around Bielsa, when he was first appointed as the club’s manager in 2018.
“When one does not win, one always wonders what is special about him, even for me, when I arrived, I was of this idea,” he said during an interview with TuttoMercatoWeb.
“Fortunately, I evaluated him with my own eyes, he has everything to be a great coach, the character he has created over the years. He has shown it in the three years at Leeds, it is very difficult to work for him. He has great demands from all points of view.”
“On a physical level you have to be perfect, nutrition, weight, you have to follow the programs given on summer days off to the letter. During the lockdown there was a specific program to follow. You must be the perfect athlete, before being a footballer.
“This is his base, he starts here and works on everything else. He wants the footballer on a physical level to be able to work on other aspects. There is a lot of intensity in training and matches, therefore physical condition at the top. Then work on much more.
“People think a lot of things not knowing him directly. Everyone can get his own idea, but for me he was the best manager I have had, and there have been many: Iachini, Mihajlovic, Delio Rossi, Cosmi…
“For my part he really improved all the players, from the first to the last, especially this year with the guys who were the same ones who arrived from the Championship.”
The right-back also had only positive things to say about Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani and the way he runs the club.
“He [Radrizzani] has a lot of people who work for him, he has his own businesses, he delegates a lot. But he knows how to manage the club in a positive way, even with the boys. He has a direct relationship with the team, he feels the players for everything,” Berardi explained.
“Then there are difficult moments and then he takes care of it, asks if he can do something. There was a positive relationship.”
On his decision to leave Leeds, the former Sampdoria man said: “Yes, it is the right moment, obviously having evaluated especially the last year.”
“I came from an important break, I chased, but with the Premier League team there was a lot of competition. So, I chose to look to play more. But it was nice precisely because they offered me to stay, it’s my choice.”
“I have already said, to play. Staying there I would have had some opportunities, but I want to feel like a protagonist. I want a new challenge, then also return to Italy and Switzerland after many years, for the family… This too has an influence.”
On July 9th, Il Resto del Carlino reported that SPAL have an interest to sign the ex-Leeds man.
“I don’t close any doors; I would like to stay as close as possible. I would put both the work and family aspects on the same level. In Leeds I had the goal of returning to the Premier League, there was this desire to win the Championship. Then, however, there is always the desire to play,” Berardi concluded.
Berardi, who joined Leeds United from Sampdoria in 2014 for £90k, made 157 appearances for the Elland Road side, scored two goals and picked up seven assists.