What are the key components to win a Premier League trophy? To be consistent throughout the season (check for Leicester City), to win ugly when necessary (check for Leicester City) and to score late goals (once again, check for Leicester City).
For years it was called “Fergie Time”, as Manchester Utd ran away with the league title thanks to late goals which led to heartbreak for the opposition. After Leicester City’s latest triumph on Saturday; maybe it should be called “Ranieri time” instead, thanks to a late Leonardo Ulloa goal.
SHOOT takes a look at the Argentine, whose aerial ability may be key if Leicester City are to defy the odds and win their first-ever top division trophy in the clubs 132-year history…
Where did it all start for Ulloa?
Born in General Roca; a small city in the Rio Negro province in Eastern Argentina, as a child of such an ability that the future Premier League star possessed, opportunities were very limited. Ulloa started his career at the local club in the city until he played a game that changed his life forever. His opposition was the second division side Comision de Actividades Infantiles, known commonly as C.A.I, and he scored a hat-trick. He made so much of an impression that he was offered a place at the club following a successful trial. It was a tough decision as it meant leaving home and moving 700-miles away, abandoning his mother, father and two older brothers.
Throughout his two years at C.A.I, he mesmerised the crowd. So much so that in 2005, he made the move to the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo. After making 31 appearances and scoring three goals; as well as helping the club lift the Clausura title back in 2007; Ulloa will reflect fondly on his time in the capital of his home nation. Following his departure, he made the move to Arsenal Sarandi and Olimpo before a new challenge was set upon following his move to Spain.
What happened next?
Despite averaging a goal nearly every four games at Olimpo; a move to play for Castellon, on the North East coast of Spain, was a chance which Ulloa could not turn down. Despite playing in the Segunda Division – the second tier in the Spanish football pyramid – it would allow him to team up with former teammate Jose Carlos Tabares with whom he played with at C.A.I. In his debut season; his quality shone through, with Ulloa netting 16 goals – the sixth highest in the league and he became the club’s top goalscorer. After finishing seventh, it all looked to be going to plan for the Valencian club; however, the following season was not to go to plan as the club finished bottom of the Segunda Division and were relegated to the Segunda Division B – a further transfer looked inevitable.
His next move was still in Spain as he signed a five-year contract for Almeria ahead of the 2010-11 season. It was at this point where his name began to be a bit more well-known and by the end of the 2011-12 season he was named the club’s top goalscorer, despite the club failing to regain their La Liga status. A move to better things beckoned, again.
How has he performed within England?
By January 2013, it seemed inevitable that a move to England was on the cards for Ulloa. The move was to Brighton & Hove Albion in the end, signing a four-year deal with the Seagulls for a fee believed to be around £2m. His debut was a dream start as he scored in the FA Cup, just days after arriving at the AMEX Stadium, in a 3-2 defeat against Arsenal.
Ulloa became a key individual in Brighton’s run to the play-offs, and in March scored a hat-trick in a fixture at The AMEX against Huddersfield. Those three goals meant that the Argentine became the first person to score a hat-trick at the stadium since its opening back in 2011.
After heartbreak in the play-off semi-final against Brighton’s fierce rivals Crystal Palace, it seemed as if it was another season in the Championship for Ulloa. The dream of Premier League football was over.
After scoring 14 goals in the 2013-14 season, it was a sense of déjà vu for Ulloa, with the Seagulls once again suffering play-off heartbreak. Not that it made a difference for the Argentine however, as in July 2014 he put-pen-to-paper on a four-year contact with top-flight outfit Leicester. He made an immediate impact for Nigel Pearson’s men, with him scoring on his Premier League debut for the Foxes – a goal overshadowed by a late equaliser from strike partner Chris Wood.
How big of a shock was his goal on Saturday?
Despite scoring 11 goals last season; including nine from open play, to make him the club’s top goalscorer of the campaign, Ulloa has struggled to cement his place within the first-team and as a result has found himself featuring off the bench for Claudio Raneiri’s men, as well as also featuring occasionally for the club’s Under 21s. Therefore, it could be considered a shock that he registered his third goal of the season in front of the King Power crowd on Saturday. However the game suited the Argentine immensely, with fans crying out his name for what seemed like hours prior to the substitution being made. His target man ability made him lethal in the air, and when Marc Albrighton drilled the cross into the six-yard box, no one was going to beat the stretching foot of Ulloa to the foot.
Why is he so dangerous?
At a height of 6ft 3in; Ulloa is arguably one of the tallest Premier League strikers. As a result, he has the ability to win headers, making the counter attacking way that Leicester City play so effective. With his height, the Foxes can unexpectedly stage an opportunity on goal with him also having the talent to bring it down and deliver a pass to the likes of Jamie Vardy. His heading ability can be dangerous also at set-pieces with Ulloa scoring many goals from corners, including a goal within 38 seconds at the back end of last season against Newcastle United.