These things happen in football. The rational side of you knows that Pablo – at 36 years old – wasn’t going to stay at Leeds forever. Especially given he wasn’t featuring for us often in lieu of the likes of Rodrigo coming into the club. But it’s hard to accept that good things ever need to come to an end – and come to an end they must. The same goes for Berardi, a figure who has embodied the “side before self” mentality throughout his entire time here.
It’s pointless talking about why Hernandez has been a heroic figure at Leeds United. His incredible energy, vision, bravery and creativity were sometimes all that we had to win 3 points. I lose count of how many games he single-handedly dragged us to victory. Hell, you could easily argue that for all Bielsa’s methods and the relentless effort of the entire squad, it was Pablo who inspired the wins that get us over the line. The finest midfielder we’ve had in all the years outside of the Premier League. For all the love I have for the likes of Snodgrass, Gradel, etc, Hernandez is (for me) the absolute best.
Berardi is a much misunderstood and under-appreciated figure. The players talk openly about his value within the group and what his mere presence contributes. But we (as fans) often forget that he displaced Pontus in the side for a long period. We tend to remember his red cards or mistakes, but forget the blood, sweat and love he gave for this club. I loved him from the start. Not *that* debut red card, but his desire to separate himself from the Sicknote Six at Charlton. That despite legitimately being injured he travelled with the squad to participate. The fact that he declined a contract from the club because of his injury. the fact that I don’t see how he could have given any more to Leeds United.
King Billy’s words are emblazoned on Elland Road; “Side before self. Every time” and there aren’t many players since the man himself who you could say embodied that spirit. Berardi did. Berardi does. You’d never find him refusing to play a final game to avoid injury in the hope of securing a move elsewhere.
I’m glad both Berardi and Pablo got to have a farewell at Elland Road in front of the fans. It would be devastating to think their final game would be yet another fixture played to the silent, smiling faces of cardboard cutouts.
The inevitability of the goodbye made it no-less heart-wrenching. Seeing Pablo sat in the stands rubbing his tear-filled eyes while 8,000 fans relentlessly sang his name made me both proud and profoundly sad. Seeing Berardi walking across the pitch and using his shirt to dry his eyes was difficult too; juxtaposing his usually stoic warrior-like personality with sorrow.
I’ve not felt so attached to a squad of players for years. But with that attachment comes despair when individuals move on. I’m glad we were able to do it like this. I’m glad it was done with fans at home, with 3-points on the board and a bright future ahead. I’d have rather Rob Price found a way to make Pablo 26 again, but I guess what makes certain things so beautiful is that they can’t go on forever.
And so it goes. All good things must come to an end. Two of my all-time favourite players departing on the same day isn’t exactly what I wanted for a Sunday, but I’m glad both are leaving with untold love and respect from the club and its fans. I’ll miss you both dearly but I’m delighted we got to experience this incredible journey with you playing key parts in it.