LEEDS UNITED striker Luciano Becchio has ended speculation over his future by signing a long-term contract which manager Simon Grayson described as proof of the club's growing ambition.
Becchio completed a perfect afternoon on Saturday by agreeing a new three-and-a-half year deal shortly after the victory over QPR that carried Leeds into the Championship's automatic promotion places.
The sudden agreement came as a surprise following comments from Grayson earlier in the week which indicated that negotiations would run into January, but the deal ended fears among supporters that the Argentinian striker would quit Elland Road.
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The 26-year-old's previous deal was due to expire at the end of the season, raising the possibility that Leeds would lose Becchio on a free transfer as they had Jermaine Beckford last season, but his new contract ties him to United until the summer of 2014. His 12 goals this season have established him as the club's top scorer and have been central to the form which moved Leeds to within three points of the division's summit.
Grayson said: "It was vital that we secured his services after losing Jermaine Beckford last season. I believe this shows the ambition we have as a football club.
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"It's a major boost for everyone, particularly as there was considerable interest in him."
Nottingham Forest were one of the clubs firmly linked with Becchio but the extension of his contract has ended any prospect of United listening to offers for him next month.
Becchio is three goals short of reaching 50 for Leeds, two-and-a-half years after he joined the club from Spanish third division side Merida UD, and he produced his first hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Bristol City last month.
"I'm very happy to sign the contract and stay," Becchio said. "I love the fans, we're doing well and we want to get to the Premier League. I want to be part of that."
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Becchio contributed to a strong attacking display against Rangers but Grayson focused attention on the rigid performance of his defence amid much disruption.
Leigh Bromby was drafted in as a substitute for only his second appearance of the season after Alex Bruce succumbed to a groin strain with 10 minutes gone and Andy O'Brien had earlier been ruled out by a thigh problem.
"Leigh's been a real top professional and he looked very comfortable," Grayson said. "He looked like someone who's been playing in the Championship all season.
"This is something I've tried to make clear – everyone will get an opportunity and when they do they need to take it. He's taken his."
Bruce and O'Brien are both doubtful for Sunday's clash with Leicester City.
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