By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens

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Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor are worth more than Sam Byram and must be tied to lucrative new Leeds contracts, according to Noel Whelan.

The ex-Elland Road striker is unimpressed that the Championship giants have allowed the club’s two prize assets to have just over 12 months remaining on their deals.

Whelan is concerned 19-year-old midfielder Cook and 22-year-old left-back Taylor could follow Byram by running down their contract and leaving for cut-price fees.

Academy graduate Bryam left Elland Road in January to join West Ham for £3.7million.

Like Bryam, Cook and Taylor have also graduated from the Leeds academy to become mainstays of the team and they were two of the outstanding players in their positions in the second tie this season in what was another underwhelming campaign for the club.

Whelan believes these are crucial issues for the club, while doubt continues to cloud the position of manager Steve Evans.

“The sooner we sort out a head coach the better but I’m also disappointed at the handling of the contracts held by the likes of Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor,” Whelan wrote in his Yorkshire Evening Post column. “Again, it would be nice to see some evidence of efforts being made to extend their deals. At the moment we’re at risk of heading down the road we went with Sam Byram and that has to be avoided at all costs.

“I don’t care what anyone says – we lost a good player in Byram and we lost money. The fee we got, £3.7m it was reported, was less in my view than he was really worth but as much as we could expect with six months on his deal.

“As I see it, both Taylor and Cook are worth more than Sam but they’re 12 months away from the end of their deals. If they don’t sign up soon, what happens? Do we get round to January and go through the same situation we saw with Byram?

If they were to go, we won’t get better replacements without spending some serious cash. So why are we dragging are heels? The reality of football is that the wages of these players need to rise. Forget about structures or parity – better players get paid more money. That’s they way it goes. And top talent earns a premium.

“In parts of my career I earned much less than some others around me but you didn’t moan about it. Sad as it is, there’s always someone better than you or more valuable than you.”

As reported by Football Insider, Taylor has emerged as a target for Liverpool as they look to sign a new left-back this summer.

In other Leeds news, a 35-year-old has emerged as the new odds-on favourite to be the club’s next manager.