Leeds United: 'Beccs must stay' - O'Brien

Andy O'Brien added his voice to the calls for Luciano Becchio to commit his future to Leeds United following another match-winning performance from the Argentinian striker.

Becchio followed up his hat-trick in last month's 3-1 victory over Bristol City by scoring twice in the last nine minutes to earn Leeds a 2-1 win against Crystal Palace.

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United's leading scorer took his tally for the season to 11 with a decisive brace at Elland Road, showing once again why Leeds are working to tie the 26-year-old to a new contract.

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Becchio will become a free agent in little over six months' time if a fresh contract is not agreed before then, and negotiations with him have been active since September.

Leeds manager Simon Grayson admitted he was no closer to knowing whether the forward will put his name to an extended deal, but he urged the former Boca Juniors and Barcelona player – signed from Spanish third division side Merida UD in 2008 – to show "loyalty" by choosing to remain with the club.

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On-loan centre-back O'Brien, who himself is out of contract with Bolton Wanderers next summer, said: "Luciano's coming into form which, when you're out of contract, is great.

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"Everyone at Leeds is hoping the club can keep him. He's a decent age and he's one of the top scorers in the Championship. People will be looking at him.

"But there's a nucleus of a fantastic team here and some really good players. The future bodes well."

Becchio's goals prevented Palace from breaking Leeds' run of six league matches without defeat, and a narrow victory was enough to carry United back into the Championship's play-off positions on a day when several fixtures succumbed to freezing weather.

As the situation stands, foreign clubs would be able to sign Becchio on a pre-contract agreement next month, and English sides could move to court him next summer once his deal with Leeds expires.

Grayson said: "I'm sure clubs and scouts – if they've got anything about them – will be taking notice of him, as we are of other players.

But we're trying to keep our best players and he fits right into that category.

"There aren't too many bigger clubs than Leeds United in terms of what could happen in the future and hopefully players don't leave because of short-sightedness. I hope they take a long-term view.

"We took Luciano from the Spanish third division and other players have come from lower divisions. We've put them on the map and made them better players, and we want to keep them. There has to be a certain amount of loyalty, not players leaving because of money. But I do realise that money does play a big part in football."

United were in danger of suffering their first defeat since October 25 on Saturday, trailing until the 81st minute to a first-half goal from Neil Danns, but a flurry of attacking substitutions forced Palace to crack in the closing stages of an intense game.

The London club are trapped in the Championship's bottom three and O'Brien said: "We didn't take Palace for granted, even though their league position's a lowly one. They've got some decent players.

"It's a very strange league. If we'd lost then Palace would have been just two wins away from being there or thereabouts. But it's seven games unbeaten for us now and with teams around us getting points, it's an important result."

Paul Heckingbottom speaks to the media.

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