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Noel Whelan makes Gaetano Berardi claim after Leeds win

Noel Whelan insisted to BBC Radio Leeds that no-one deserved a Premier League debut more than Gaetano Berardi after the defender made his bow in Leeds United’s latest win.

Berardi got the chance to play in the top flight for the first time on Tuesday. The Swiss came off the bench for the second-half as the Whites beat Southampton.

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It comes after Berardi recently came from back from a long-term injury sustained in the final stages of last season. He had been on the bench on a number of occasions since returning, but up until this week, he had not got out onto the pitch.

Whelan suggested that his appearance on the south coast was a reward for the incredible service he has given to Leeds over the years. He did however, admit that he expects the 32-year-old to move on when his contract expires in the summer.

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“It was lovely to see Berardi out there,” he told BBC Radio Leeds. “There’s no one in that squad that deserves it more quite frankly. He’s been a great servant to the club. I’ve enjoyed watching him through the good, the bad, horrible times. He’s always been 100%, he’s always been honest.

“And I was so pleased to see him get his Premier League debut with Leeds United. And he deserved it, he really did. But I just can’t see why we’d keep hold of a player for sentimental reasons. I think if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, he’s at an age where he needs to move on.”

Selfishly, it would arguably be ideal for Leeds to keep Berardi. As a fifth-choice centre-back, he is a fantastic option to have in the ranks.

His effort and dedication can never be questioned. And he looked like he had hardly been away when he played against the Saints.

But as Whelan notes, it may not be best for Berardi to stick around. He is going to struggle for game-time.

It will be a sad day for many if Berardi does, indeed, leave this summer. But it will delight many that he got the chance to bow out as a Premier League player.

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