Steve Evans has called on Mirco Antenucci to prove his worth and earn a new deal at Leeds United.
The 31-year-old’s contract expires at the end of the season, with repeat suggestions over January that clubs in his native Italy were keen on taking him home. There were also indications that he was keen to move back after the birth of his second child.
However, Antenucci’s agent Silvio Pagliari stressed this week that the striker was happy to stay in Leeds.
That came after the club refused to let him leave, knowing a paucity of options up-front meant Antenucci was likely to be required over the second half of the season.
However, that means the Whites will have to make a decision about the striker between now and June.
Evans revealed this week how Antenucci would be better served earning the new contract he asked for back in November.
“I think for anyone to get a contract beyond a contract ending, they have to be in the team as a regular and producing performances that make it – in coaching terms – a ‘no-brainer’ for me to recommend to the president that we do something,” said the head coach.
“I thought Antenucci was outstanding at Bolton. And he looked really bright in the game before when he came on.
“I never thought for one minute he would have gone in January, I really didn’t.
“I knew there was a lot of interest in Italy. But I always thought he’d be around because he loves being at Leeds United and I think he wants to be here.
“But to be here beyond the summer, he has to produce the performances he did for 45 minutes on Saturday.
“There were offers (in January). But they were never accepted.”
While he won’t be available against Nottingham Forest, Leeds could be handed a boost over the next two weeks through the return of Gaetano Berardi.
Berardi has been out of action since tearing an ankle ligament in the game against Charlton Athletic on December 12. Evans added: “He is back on the grass with the medical team and is running almost at full speed, twisting and turning. I would expect Bera to be in the group certainly by halfway through next week. Then as soon as he trains three or four days – and he’s an incredibly fit young man – (he’ll be back).
“Having every one of those big players back available again will help us.”