Noel Whelan insisted that “nobody” at Leeds United deserves to play in the Premier League more than Gaetano Berardi and hopes the defender is offered a new contract.

The former Whites and Coventry forward, speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, identified the 31-year-old as someone that the academy players should look up to.

Berardi tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in the 3-1 win over Derby County on Sunday and faces up to nine months out.

The injury has put big questions marks over his future with the centre-half out of contract this summer.

It is unlikely that the Italian would be able to return to action until the start of the 2021/22 season.

When asked by Football Insider if the injury had scuppered Berardi’s chances of a new deal, Whelan said:

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“I think he has done enough to get a deal over the time he has been here. He has been a great servant to the club and gives 100 per cent every time he plays.

“If he was to be offered a new deal he would have to accept being a bit part player at a Premier League club.

“It might be his only chance to experience that. If he is given a contract, he has every right to sign it and experience that one year in the Premier League. Enjoy going to Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and so on. Nobody at that football club deserves it more.

“He was having a great game before he got that injury.

“That man gives full commitment and young academy players should look up to him because that is how you go about your game.”

In other Leeds United news, it can be REVEALED that club are set to open talks over new £100k-a-week deal.

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