NEIL Warnock last night revealed that El-Hadji Diouf turned down interest from a Premier League club to sign a new 18-month contract with Championship Leeds United.
The Senegalese striker has been a major hit since moving to Elland Road in August, but his current deal was due to run out in January.
Manager Warnock had made no secret of his desire to hold on to Diouf, who had been attracting interest from a number of clubs with Brian McDermott, manager of struggling Reading, understood to have been keen to take the 31-year-old back to the top flight.
However, after lengthy discussions between the Yorkshire club and the player’s representatives, Diouf put pen to paper yesterday afternoon on a deal that will keep him at Elland Road until the end of the 2013-14 season.
Warnock last night told the Yorkshire Post: “It is great news for everyone and a massive lift ahead of what is always a busy time of the year.
“When other clubs are sniffing around – and there was understandably a lot of interest, including some from the Premier League – then you are bound to be worried whether anything could be sorted out.
“A big offer from the Premier League can change everything. The one thing I always felt was in our favour was that he wanted to stay.
“And I have to say the deal Diouf has signed is far from silly money.
“Full credit to Dioufy because he has kept me informed all along about what clubs have been speaking to him and what they have said.
“The bottom line is he wanted to stay and full credit to Shaun (Harvey, chief executive) for getting the deal done as a lot of work has gone into it.”
Diouf’s success at Elland Road has been one of the more unexpected stories of the 2012-13 season so far, not least because of the previously tempestuous relationship between Warnock and the Senegal international striker.
The Leeds chief added: “Dioufy has never been a minute’s trouble since he walked through the door.
“To me, he’s been like a breath of fresh air in the dressing room.”
Diouf, who is believed to have at least doubled the £5,000 per week deal he signed in August, has scored five goals in 24 appearances so far for Leeds.
Ipswich Town’s revival is no surprise to Warnock: Page 2.