BBC Sport pundit Noel Whelan has urged Gaetano Berardi to leave Leeds United at the end of the season to salvage the final years of his professional career.
Berardi is due to become a free agent at the close of the current Championship campaign as his present £9,000-per-week terms expire in June, and the club are not believed to have held any negotiations over a new deal.
Boss Marcelo Bielsa is thought to want Berardi to stay at Elland Road beyond the current campaign, despite only calling on the one-time Switzerland international to start 11 of our 37 second-tier fixtures this season.
Two of the 31-year-old’s opening calls have come in our three most recent league games with Ben White slotting into midfield to cover for the absent Kalvin Phillips, while Berardi has also filed in at right-back and defensive midfield this term.
Whelan, though, feels Berardi should put himself first in the summer and look to forge a new chapter away from West Yorkshire, as he will never be a first-choice at the club given his talents are below the standard Bielsa will require.
“It is really difficult because we will need a different class of player, no disrespect to Gaetano, but we will need something more,” Whelan told Football Insider.
Does Berardi deserve a new contract?
Yes, but only a 1-year deal
No, he's not good enough
“At the back end of your career, you want to play as much football as possible because your career is short and you do not want to spend it sitting on the bench. You want to contribute more often than one game every two months.
“If he is happy doing that then fine, but if it was me I would want to move on. Help Leeds get to the Premier League but then finish your career playing as much as you can.”
While Whelan feels as though Berardi falls below the standard United will require next season, especially in the Premier League, Bielsa has continually seen something in the Swiss centre-half to trust him slotting into the side whenever needed.
Though Berardi’s numbers in the league this term do support Whelan’s point that the 31-year-old will not be a first-choice candidate, having only averaged 1.7 successful tackles per 90 minutes – the fourth-best record among the five players to have played at centre-half for us, per WhoScored data.
Berardi also only ranks above Kalvin Phillips for interceptions (1.9), but is joint-first with Liam Cooper for clearances (3.6), outright first for crosses blocked (0.6), second to Luke Ayling for shots blocked (0.7), second to Phillips for passes blocked (0.6) and second to Cooper for aerial duels won (3.1 of 6.7).
Whether his performances this season have been enough to see the club offer Berardi a new contract remains to be seen, though some supporters did call for a new deal after last weekend’s win over Huddersfield Town.
In other Leeds United news, the club are considering a move to sign a midfielder who completes 52% of his long passes.