Marcelo Bielsa made a “big mistake” by allowing Aapo Halme to leave Leeds United in the summer, according to Noel Whelan.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the ex-United forward claims it was inevitable Bielsa would be bitten by leaving his squad short of quality options at centre-back.

Halme had developed encouragingly at Elland Road following his arrival in January of last year before he was surprisingly sold to Barnsley in the summer for £400,000.

Whelan claims Bielsa should have kept faith in Halme as he is young, promising and offer cover in case of injury and suspension.

That is now mostly absent as Leeds face the prospect of being without long-term absentee Liam Cooper and the suspended Gaetano Berardi after the international break.

“Bielsa should not have let Halme go,” Whelan told Football Insider. “He has been doing very well at Barnsley and is a promising young centre-back.

“We could do with him now and it was a poor decision to let him go. I’m sure Bielsa will be thinking, ‘goodness, I shouldn’t have sold Halme, that was a big mistake’.

“We let a lot of centre-backs go in the summer, not just Pontus Jansson but from the Under-23s. Ben White has been a superb replacement for Jansson, but we didn’t need to let all the other defenders leave.

“It’s coming back to bite us a little bit.”

Cooper and White are the first choice centre-back pairing in Bielsa’s side, but the skipper will be out for around another month with a groin injury.

In other Leeds United news, a £120K-a-week Premier League star is willing to take pay cut to move to Elland Road.