Leeds United: Two-goal Antenucci hopeful about contract talks
Mirco Antenucci said he was hopeful of securing talks with Leeds United about a contract for next season after his two goals against Bolton Wanderers helped lift the pressure on head coach Steve Evans.
Antenucci restored calm to Elland Road at the end of a troubled week as a finish either side of half-time earned Leeds a 2-1 win and bought Evans some breathing space in the aftermath of a 4-0 hammering at Brighton.
Evans, whose reign at Leeds is less than five months old, looked to be on the verge of the sack after his squad were thrashed at The Amex last Monday but Antenucci’s goals ensured a quick response on Saturday and kept United nine points clear of the Championship’s relegation places.
The clash with Bolton was a return to form for the Italian who scored for the first time since November with a close-range volley on 39 minutes and then doubled United’s lead with a deft effort shortly after the hour.
Antenucci came close to leaving Elland Road in the January transfer window and was understood to have asked United to allow him to move back to Italy following approaches from a number of Serie B clubs.
Leeds resisted, citing a lack of strikers in their squad, but Antenucci is out of contract this summer and has yet to discuss an extension with the club. The 31-year-old said he would look for talks about the possibility of a new deal once the season finished in May.
“Of course,” he said. “I wait (until) someone calls me. I have to finish the season good.
“There are a lot of rumours about me but I would like to finish the season as it’s a pleasure playing for this club. After, I think to the future. I want to finish the season well and if someone from the club calls me, we talk.”
Antenucci’s starts have been limited this season but he featured from the outset against Bolton as Evans attempted to stem the flow of criticism which followed Leeds’ defeat at Brighton.
“I’ve had difficult moments and sometimes I didn’t play,” Antenucci said. “In January there were a lot of rumours about me. Clubs called me but I don’t like to leave halfway through the season.”
Saturday’s match played out against the backdrop of more protests by United’s supporters against owner Massimo Cellino – including a mock funeral procession and plane flying over Elland Road with a banner reading ‘Time to go, Massimo’ – but Antenucci’s efforts sealed a first win in six league games.
His strikes put United 2-0 up before a late reply from Kaiyne Woolery forced Evans’ side to survive a tense finish. Bolton dropped to the foot of the Championship at full-time.
Antenucci said: “We needed this victory. It’s very good to put a difficult performance behind us, mentally as a team.
“It’s a big result for everyone, for our ranking and for our fans. In football the gaffer is under pressure every time. We have to keep calm and work every day.
“I wished (for a third goal) but Bolton were dangerous in the last 20 minutes. The ranking for them is not good but for me it was a difficult team to face. For us it is very important because for a lot of time we haven’t won.”
Evans, meanwhile, said his players had succeeded in divorcing themselves from the protests against Cellino.
The United boss, who was criticised by Cellino last week for “talking too much”, said: “At the team meeting I told the players it’s not our business.
“Our business is to get three points and if we do, we can send the supporters home and they can enjoy their Saturday night. There’ve been too many where they’ve been going home a little bit p****d off with us.”