Exclusive: Noel Whelan reacts as Leeds stall contract talks of fans favourite

Noel Whelan has claimed Gaetano Berardi’s best chance of getting a new Leeds United contract is if their promotion bid fails.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the ex-United striker explained he is a big admirer of the 31-year-old defender, who has cult hero status among the club’s supporters.

But Whelan is not convinced that the Switzerland international, 31, will still be at Elland Road beyond next summer, when his current contract expires.

Football Insider revealed earlier this month that the club will adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to the future of Berardi amid doubts over whether to extend his agreement.

“There are question marks over the future of Berardi,” Whelan told Football Insider. “Everything depends on Premier League football. If we get to the Premier League, he wouldn’t be a regular and he might be let go.

“He’s almost more likely to be given a new contract if we stay in the Championship, as he would be needed if we are trying to get promoted.

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“I’m a big fan of Berardi and Bielsa’s decision to convert him into a centre-back has paid dividends. He is a really good back-up to Liam Cooper and Ben White.

“He has showed his quality and importance to the squad over the last month. He is strong, aggressive and totally committed. His distribution has also been fantastic at times.”

Berardi has made eight appearances this season, including four consecutive league starts while Liam Cooper was recovering from injury.

The Swiss is in line to keep his place in the starting XI against QPR on Saturday if the injury Cooper sustained as a second-half substitute against Sheffield Wednesday keeps him out of the side.

In other Leeds United news, it can be REVEALED that the club are braced to lose £20million-plus valued player in January.