By Kevin Phillips

11th Dec, 2020 | 7:00am

'Like A New Signing' - Exclusive: Pundit reacts to 'Big, big news' he's heard from Leeds

The new-year Leeds United return of Gaetano Berardi is “like a new signing”, according to Kevin Phillips.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider , the former England striker hailed Marcelo Bielsa’s Wednesday update on the long-term absentee as “big, big news”.

The United manager revealed he had no plans to sign a new defender in the January window despite ruling Robin Koch out for three months with a knee injury and Diego Llorente suffering a hamstring injury after his debut last weekend.

Bielsa explained that Leeds have enough cover in defence and “we also expect to count on Berardi from February”.

The Switzerland international, 32, has been sidelined since July after tearing his cruciate knee ligament.

Phillips welcomed the defender’s return in the coming weeks.

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“It is great news but it is so tough when you have been out that long,” he told Football Insider. “Will he come back the same player?

“He has been out for so long now. It is big, big news for the club and the player to have him coming back in February.

“It will be like a new signing but he will need to be eased in gently.”

Berardi was handed a one-year contract extension in the summer by Leeds despite his devastating injury blow coming at a time when his previous deal was about to expire.

He has been a key member of the squad during Bielsa’s reign, operating as the third choice centre-back, and is a big favourite of supporters due to his committed playing style.

He made 13 league starts among 25 appearances last season, mostly as a replacement for Liam Cooper when was injured.

In other news, Leeds United may be set for blockbuster signing spree after company filing reveal.