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Steve Evans shocked by Leeds United defender Gaetano Berardi

Leeds United defender Gaetano Berardi has missed three months' worth of action with injury.

Steve Evans has told the the Yorkshire Evening Post that he didn’t realise Gaetano Berardi was so talented when he took over at Leeds United.

Berardi's first season at Leeds was a rather indifferent one, but he has become one of the Whites’ most reliable performers this campaign.

The Swiss full-back has been consistently excellent throughout the season to date, but he has missed the last three months’ worth of action with an ankle injury.

And with Berardi is set to make his comeback next weekend, Evans admits that he has missed the 27-year-old.

“It’s a bonus for us because his form was excellent,” Evans said. “I said right when I first came in that he was a player who really surprised me. I didn’t think he was this good. It goes without saying that we’ve missed him.

“He’s a very fit lad and he’s more than ready now. We’ve given him the maximum amount of time suggested to us by the medical people and I can tell that he’s itching to step it up. When he gets back involved he’ll be up to speed very quickly."

Berardi is likely to come back into Leeds’ team for their FA Cup clash against Watford, with the Middlesbrough match on Monday evening still too soon for the defender to be involved.

Leeds don’t want to take any risks over such an important player’s fitness, and have been cautious with his rehabilitation process.

Chris Wood and Alex Mowatt are also nearing returns for Leeds (Yorkshire Evening Post), with Evans’ options set to increase in the coming weeks.

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