Gaetano Berardi started the season as the first choice left back at Leeds United, but it was assumed that he would not remain a starter at the position all season. He went out injured in the early part of the season, meaning that Leeds fans were subjected to watching an out of place Vurnon Anita play left back after it quickly became apparent that Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was not going to be able to cut it as a starter at Leeds.
Berardi has a reputation of allowing his temper to get the better of him, so along with his passion for the team, some issues with discipline were expected. And almost every Leeds fans can excuse the occasional yellow card for being too enthusiastic or too passionate.
Berardi was a key player for Leeds this season, lining up all across the backline and even wearing the captain’s armband on a few occasions. He even scored a goal, albeit against Newport County in the dismal FA Cup loss.
He played better at right back than he did as a fill-in left back, but it was still easy to see that he wasn’t as talented or as accomplished as Luke Ayling. He put in a number of unglamorous, if not quality, performances down the stretch.
However good his performances were overshadowed by three completely avoidable red cards. The first one came against Bristol City in October, when Matt Taylor squared up to Berardi, only for Berardi to headbutt him in the closing minutes of the match, seeing red and getting a two match ban.
His next red card came against Cardiff City in what ended up being Thomas Christiansen’s last game. His two first half yellow cards led to the Leeds playing the entire second half with 10 men in what was basically a must-win match for both the team and the beleaguered head coach.
His final red card of the season came against Sunderland in the 90th minute of a 1-1 draw. The reckless, late tackle was totally avoidable and unnecessary, and yet he saw a straight red for the second time last season and was suspended the final five matches of the season for his third red card. To add insult to injury, Berardi was the captain on the day as well.
Season Grade: D
This is a painful grade to write because on the basis of Berardi’s performances and preseason expectations alone he would have gotten a B. He filled in where asked, never complained, and played well enough in almost every single match he was in. However, he was unavailable for nine matches through suspension after getting three completely daft red cards. He is a leader on the team, and his passion for both football and Leeds are his best qualities, but unless he reels in his temper, he will be a liability on the pitch.
Other teams know that Berardi can easily be wound up and baited into getting a card, meaning that there is a chance almost every time he plays that Leeds will end up with ten men and put at a disadvantage.