Warnock relaxed about contract situation of star man Diouf despite agent’s calls for new deal

NEIL Warnock last night insisted Leeds United are comfortable with waiting to start negotiations over extending El-Hadji Diouf’s contract.

The former Senegal international, whose current deal runs out in January, has become an integral part of the Elland Road set-up since joining in the summer.

Diouf’s impact has led his agent, Willie McKay, to this week press for United to hand the two-time African Footballer of the Year a new longer-term deal of “two or three years” amid interest from the Premier League.

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However, as desperate as Warnock is to retain the services of the 31-year-old beyond the start of 2013, the United manager is relaxed over the future of Diouf after receiving assurances from the forward that he wants to stay at Elland Road.

Warnock said: “I am quite happy where we are. There is no point changing things for the sake of it. We are in a good place at the minute.

“You want your better players to stay around, that goes without saying.

“But it is not top of my list.”

Diouf’s terrific efforts in a United shirt were rewarded on Tuesday by him being made captain for the night against former club Bolton Wanderers.

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Warnock added: “I speak to Dioufy every day. I can’t believe how well he has done for us both on and off the field.”

The quality of Diouf’s contribution has understandably led to McKay, as the former international’s representative, to push for better terms on behalf of his client.

Speaking earlier this week, McKay described Diouf as the “best player in the Championship” before adding: “I have been contacted by two Premier League clubs who have asked about his situation in January.”

Pressed on McKay’s comments, Warnock added with a smile: “If you know Willie, any player he has got is the best in that league.

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“I take that with a pinch of salt. He rang me six weeks ago to ask me to have a look at one of his players.

“I wasn’t that interested but he said the player was on a Bosman. So I said, ‘Go on then’. Within half an hour, it was all over Sky Sports News that we were signing him. And I can’t even remember who it was.”

A more pressing priority for Warnock is tomorrow’s clash with Barnsley at Elland Road. The derby contest will bring the United chief face-to-face with one of his former players and he admits to being impressed by the work Keith Hill has done at Oakwell since succeeding Mark Robins in 2011.

“Keith used to play for me at Plymouth,” says Warnock of the year or so that the two men were together at Home Park.

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“Maybe he picked a few tips off me in his younger days. Mind, he has changed a lot since then. I’ll bet it is a case now of ‘Do as I say, not as I did’. He was a bit of a lad, with long hair. He flitted around the place with not a lot of responsibility.

“But what a lovely lad. He always made me smile during training sessions.”

Whether Warnock will be feeling so well-disposed towards Hill come 5pm tomorrow remains to be seen with Barnsley having claimed bragging rights over their West Yorkshire neighbours.

Since United won promotion back to the Championship in 2010, the Reds have beaten their rivals from up the M1 three times – scoring 11 goals in the process – and also claimed a point from a 3-3 draw at Elland Road.

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Warnock, though, is adamant past results will not be a factor tomorrow.

He said: “Apparently, they stuffed us twice last season so we don’t want that again. We want to put up a better performance than that.

“Put it this way, I’ll be disappointed if we get beat 5-2 (as Leeds did at Oakwell in September, 2010). The whole club has changed in the last six months. Mentally, we are a lot stronger.”

As for his former midfielder, the Leeds chief added: “What I like about Keith as a manager is he is level-headed.

“I listen to him on the radio or whatever and think, ‘Well done, Keith’. He never gets dragged into anything. He says it as it is.”