Leonardo Ulloa and the art of patience
Leicester City frontman Leonardo Ulloa (15/8 to enjoy a top 10 finish with Leicester City) has surpassed expectations since his arrival at the King Power Stadium, and his goal scoring exploits have finally earned some well-deserved recognition across the pond.
With an impressive tally of five goals in five Premier League games, Ulloa is just two behind Diego Costa in the race to be top scorer. Whilst it is still early days, the Argentine is notably ahead of compatriot Sergio Aguero, who has significantly more expensive support artists surrounding him at Manchester City.
Now there is talk of new Argentina boss ‘Tata’ Martino making tentative overtures towards Ulloa, and the 28-year-old has certainly earned a chance to show what he can do for his homeland.
More than just a fox in the box, Leicester’s record signing has illustrated during his time in British football’s top two tiers that he has more strings to his bow than merely timing tap-ins.
Manchester United were spectators of the Argentine’s heading ability and spot-kick composure last time out, but Ulloa has also proven to be a willing worker and grafter, with excellent movement and smooth link-up play.
The sharp striker would certainly stand out like a sore thumb amongst his potential national team peers, who boast superstars such as Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and, of course, Lionel Messi. These blockbuster names have all plied their trade for some of the world’s best, and were always tipped for the top.
Ulloa did not emerge from the ranks of illustrious domestic sides such as Boca Juniors or River Plate, instead toiling with teams such as San Lorenzo and Club Olimpo, before making the switch to Spanish minnows Castellon.
Finally finding his comfort zone with the Iberian outfit, late-bloomer Ulloa honed his talents to become the prolific poacher he is today. He netted 30 times in 78 league games, all of which earned him a move to Almeria, where he enjoyed a similar purple patch.
British football soon took notice, with Brighton and Hove Albion reportedly plucking him away from the Spanish side for the tune of around £2m. Ulloa repaid them in style, contributing 23 Championship goals last term.
After just one season with the Seagulls, there were doubts as to whether £8m man Ulloa could make the step up, but he has so far arguably been the bargain of the summer for the Foxes.
Whilst his CV is lacking a prestigious club from the top table of South America and Europe’s elite, if a case of football snobbery were to keep the fearsome forward from representing his nation, it would most definitely be La Albiceleste’s loss.
During the World Cup , whenever Messi was man-marked to within an inch of his life and unable to produce a moment of magic, or if Angel Di Maria was unfit, Argentina lacked life up front. Ulloa is now making an impressive case for the chance to compete for a squad place.
Former La Albiceleste international Diego Milito, who scored 209 goals in 468 league appearances, similarly took his time before reaching the dizzying heights of an Italian treble with Inter Milan in 2010.
Despite his uncanny nose for goal ‘Il Principe’ ended up making just 25 appearances for his nation. It would be a shame for Argentina to overlook Ulloa and ignore yet another sharpshooter who could help fire them to glory.