Noel Whelan is glad Leeds United defender Gaetano Berardi is nearing a return to full fitness but admitted he has little chance of being a regular starter.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the former Whites striker and boyhood Elland Road fan insisted summer signings Robin Koch and Diego Llorente will always be above the fans’ favourite in the pecking order.
Berardi has been out since he picked up an ACL injury in the penultimate game of the last campaign after he signed a short extension to his contract to cover Project Restart.
The 32-year-old continued his recovery at Thorp Arch and was handed a fresh one-year deal by the club in October.
Marcelo Bielsa indicated in his press conference ahead of the Newcastle United game that the Swiss defender will rejoin the main training group shortly.
“Everyone was worried about what would happen to Gaetano after his injury and he was obviously out of contract,” Whelan told Football Insider.
“I think the club did the right thing, he deserved that opportunity, deserved that new contract and the club stuck by him.
“There was no other way it could have happened really. You can’t leave a man without a club who has put everything into that club for a long, long time and leave him injured with nothing else.
“They did the right thing and now he’s getting back fit there’s another option if we need him.
“We’ve progressed in the area that he plays, we’ve bought international players and they will always be above him in the pecking order.”
Berardi is currently the longest-serving player at Elland Road and has played 155 times for the club.
He moved to Yorkshire from Serie A side Sampdoria in the summer of 2014.