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Bielsa goes all out with lengthy, heartfelt tributes to departing Leeds pair

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa used Friday’s press conference to tip his hat to Gaetano Berardi and Pablo Hernandez, who are leaving the club.

The Whites announced in a statement earlier on Friday that the pair are leaving Elland Road at the end of the season. Berardi’s contract is expiring, while 36-year-old Hernandez will seek a new challenge. Both players have proved influential in the club’s recent rise, as outlined in Leeds’ impassioned statement.

However, Bielsa used his press briefing to offer his own kind words to the duo.

They have both struggled for minutes this season, which has proved tough amid Leeds’ long-awaited return to the Premier League.

Berardi made only his first league appearance in Wednesday’s win over Southampton. Hernandez, meanwhile, has played 15 times but only played 347 minutes overall.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s clash with West Brom, Bielsa said (via Leeds Live): “They’ve been a reference for Leeds, the squad, the fans. Two excellent pros. Great team-mates.

“Footballers who have been very influential, very decisive. Sincerely, throughout the three years I have had great respect for how they go about their profession and they have a lot of ability football-wise.

“For the club, we have great sadness they will no longer be part of the institution.”

Bielsa insisted that he would have loved to see both players stay on but accepts their desire to move on having had their game time restricted this season.

He was then asked to pick out some of his favourite moments from working with Hernandez and Berardi.

For the latter, though, Bielsa did not have to look far, picking out his performance against the Saints.

Bielsa hails Berardi Leeds impact

“Berardi is a player who is a noble competitor. He’s a player whose football conditions I value a lot,” the manager said. “A current player who still has years of football in front of him. That’s why I also valued if he stayed.

“For me, he’s a very complete player and a team player. Who can resolve in every defensive position, which he has done and very loved by everyone given he gives everything. The duals with the forwards, they always found him with conditions to overcome them.

“The example in the last game after a very long time without having played.

“He enters after the opponent had been superior to us in the first half and it’s a team with important strikers. He collaborates to neutralise the superiority Southampton had.”

Bielsa hailed Hernandez‘s move across the pitch, from playing right-wing at the start of his reign before moving into midfield.

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He added: “Pablo is not a player linked to his physical level he has, but due to his intelligence and experience. Apart from that, he always wants the ball. When the game is easy it’s not easy to want the ball all the time, but when the game is difficult, of course it’s a virtue to want the ball when you don’t have time.

“This last year of PL, I can’t ignore Pablo did not have the minutes he would have wanted. That he deserved because he did. I can’t ignore I’m responsible he did not have more protagonist than he did. I want to take that responsibility.”

Leeds are assured of a top-10 finish in the league ahead of Sunday’s final game of the season.

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