What is the Premier League scoring record Leonardo Ulloa would love to forget?
Leicester City striker Leonardo Ulloa has spent the second half of the season on loan with former club Brighton & Hove Albion. The decision has backfired.
The 31-year-old has struggled for playing time in the East Midlands since winning the Premier League title. His temporary return to Brighton was meant to yield more game time. It hasn’t.
Ulloa has scored just one Premier League goal in the two years since Leicester’s shock title triumph. His future at the King Power is uncertain.
Career moment was the trapdoor
Ulloa scored and created nine goals in seven Premier League starts for Leicester when they shocked the football world in 2015/16. The Argentine centre-forward made 76% of his league appearances from the bench. He was an effective impact player.
He remained in a substitute role the following season. Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki commanded the starting places due to their superior athleticism and industry. Ulloa seldom took on his opponent when in possession, completing 34 dribbles (42.5%) since the start of the 2014/15 season. He barely played a role in building attacks, averaging 12 passes per game.
He can’t fashion chances for himself, either. Since the start of the 2014/15 season, he's taken nine shots from outside the box in the Premier League. Ulloa’s strength is in the air. His flick-ons create chances and he is an obvious threat from set pieces.
The 31-year-old was used as a ‘Plan B’ for Leicester when they were chasing a goal, but Ulloa’s form spiralled after 2016. That led to fewer opportunities to get himself out of the funk.
Spending too many years as a substitute
The South American striker has made just 10 Premier League starts since May 24, 2015, scoring only one league goal in two years. Ulloa has been a substitute for so long that he’s grown stale and ineffective. A player’s match fitness takes a big hit when game time is slim.
His bit-part role had a negative effect on his mental state. The 31-year-old handed in a transfer request six months after winning the title with Leicester. His relationship with then-manager Claudio Ranieri deteriorated but he made a U-turn on the decision after the Italian’s departure.
Broken promises at Leicester
Seven months after refusing to play for Leicester again, Ulloa signed a new two-year deal under the impression Craig Shakespeare viewed him as a valued squad member. When he continued to struggle for game time, he sought another exit six months after the contract extension.
He returned to Brighton on loan. Unfortunately for Ulloa, his past heroics (27 goals in 58 games) haven’t guaranteed him appearances under Chris Hughton. He’s enduring one of the longest goal droughts of his career.
It’s difficult to see Ulloa staying at Leicester for another season given how badly things have deteriorated. City might want to cash in on him. They risk losing him for nothing in a year’s time. It’s a shame the best moment of his career turned out to be the moment things spiralled.