AS Leeds United brought the curtain down on a highly successful return to the Premier League with a 3-1 home win against West Bromwich Albion, work was already underway to replace one of its departing heroes.

Pablo Hernandez, the club’s three-time player-of-the-year winner, bid a tearful exit to Elland Road in front of the returning fans.

After a 443-day wait to get back to the stadium, 8,000 supporters made it sound like 38,000 as the 36-year-old Spaniard and defensive warrior Gaetano Beradi made their emotional farewells.

Hernandez has been the keystone to United’s rise from the Championship. He has been to Marcelo Bielsa’s team what past midfielders Bobby Collins provided for Don Revie and Gordon Strachan for Howard Wilkinson.

He will be a hard act to follow but the number 10 role behind the striker is one of the areas in which Leeds can upgrade – a man who can provide an accurate defence-splitting pass.

This was only Hernandez’s third Premier League start this season, with Bielsa keeping him on the fringes, but the former Valencia man proved that class is permanent as he ran the show against the deflated, relegated Baggies.

Bielsa, who is expected to sign a new one-year contract with Leeds, admitted: “The performance of Pablo today indicates that he deserved more minutes than the ones I gave him this year.”

Leeds finished ninth and with it £40.8million in prize money – some of which could well go on a younger version of Hernandez.

The victory saw Leeds extend their record tally of goals for a promoted club in a 38-game Premier League season to 62 and their points tally (59) is the most by a promoted side since Ipswich Town in 2000-01. How fitting that The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” was belted out before the game.

The ever-demanding Bielsa said: “On one side, I am very satisfied with what the team achieved, but on the other side I feel like we could have added a few more points. If we divided the competition in two, in the second part of the season we received 15 per cent less of the goals than we did in the first part. Had we had that security defensively in the whole campaign, we could have added those points I would have liked this season.”

Victory was never really in doubt when Rodrigo, finishing the season on a high, headed in Raphina’s corner. Kalvin Phillips doubled the lead with a 25-yard free kick which goalkeeper Sam Johnstone misjudged.

Johnstone redeemed himself in the second half as Leeds unfurled their attacking skills. Twice he denied a fairytale goal by Hernandez before ‘El Mago’ and Beradi, an eight-year United veteran, left the pitch to rapturous applause.

Ten minutes later substitute Patrick Bamford sealed the points with his 17th goal of the season, striking home a penalty after handball by Okay Yokuslu.

The match had the feel of a testimonial game at times. It was a lack of intensity that contributed to some periods of slack Leeds defending.

In the final minute, a clean sheet was torn up as Phillips miscontrolled the ball to allow Hal Robson-Kanu to net a consolation for Albion, who were saying their own farewell to manager Sam Allardyce.

A frustrated Phillips received a booking and an injury in added-on time in a challenge on Grady Diagana. He damaged his shoulder, which may put his participation in the Euros with England in doubt.