Pablo Hernandez and Gaetano Berardi bid farewell to Leeds United and the club’s supporters on Sunday afternoon as the duo started against West Bromwich Albion and lasted for more than an hour in front of the returning Elland Road support – and Nigel Martyn has exclusively paid tribute to the iconic Leeds duo. Labelling them “the piano player and piano carrier”, Martyn applauded both players for their services to Leeds.
Hernandez, 36, sees his five-year spell at Leeds come to an end having been brought to the club by Garry Monk back in 2016 – initially on loan. He has since played 175 times in all competitions for the Whites, winning the Player of the Season award for three consecutive seasons and arguably scoring the most-important goal during the club’s 16-year hiatus outside of the Premier League – during a 1-0 win over his former club Swansea City.
His celebration after that goal is pictured in a mural in Yorkshire – but he is equal in terms of legendary status when it comes to Berardi. Despite being at Leeds for a couple of seasons more than Hernandez, 32-year-old Berardi has only played 157 times – though largely due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury that limited him to just two first-team appearances this season. He has also been somewhat rotated during his Elland Road spell.
But his aggressive, passionate displays have made him a legend at Elland Road – to the extent that Leeds fans used to sing “Berardi scores, we’re on the pitch”. While Berardi did not add to the two goals he scored for Leeds, both played well as Leeds beat West Brom in front of their own fans 3-1 – and Martyn paid tribute to the duo as they played their final matches.
“He [Pablo] has been a big part of the promotion success and I am sure he has been a big part behind the scenes at the tough stages earlier on in the season – he can walk away a very proud man for what he has given the club,” Martyn told LeedsUnited.News, when discussing Hernandez.
“Same with Berardi – a different type of player but wholehearted and gives his all. Body on the line type of guy which fans take to. That’s the piano player and piano carrier right there, you get respect from your teammates and fans. Both have bought into the Leeds thing and love being here and love how the fans have taken to them. I’m so glad they got to play in front of fans managed to get a proper send off.”
Hernandez departs despite still having 12 months left on his contract and a return to Spain is expected for the ex-Spain international. Berardi’s next move, meanwhile, is an unknown. What Berardi can now say, though, is that he is a Premier League defender and available on a free – he is likely to have huge interest in his services over the course of the next few weeks.
Asked if Leeds had made the right decision not to renew Berardi’s deal – given his versatility in defence – or keep Pablo for another 12 months given his importance and iconic status, Martyn believes that while both have plenty to offer – the time was right for them to leave Elland Road.
“Yeah, I think it is the right decision to let them go. Pablo has been an absolute legend. You don’t get POTY three years in a row without doing something, in an ideal world and Pablo was five or six years younger, he would’ve stayed,” Martyn continued.
“But I guess what Bielsa is thinking is that he is not going to be able to give me long periods of time in a game. He can give me 30 minutes here or there at that intensity – but can i get 90 minutes out of him and I think that is where the worry is. Pablo will still feel like he is incredibly fit and that he can still do it but going forwards, it probably is the right decision as sad it is and as sad it is to see him go.”