Among Leicester’s key men

This is only his third season in English football but Argentinian Leonardo Ulloa has more than made an impact in the Championship and Premier League respectively, writes Alex Taylor.

Only two teams have ever avoided relegation having been at the bottom of the English Premier League at Christmas and Leicester need Leonardo Ulloa to recapture his early-season form if they are to become the third side to defy the odds.

The Argentinian striker has become one of Leicester’s key men in their return to the top flight after signing from Brighton & Hove Albion in the summer.

This is only his third season in English football but Ulloa has more than made an impact in the Championship and Premier League respectively.

He was born in General Roca, in Northern Patagonia, in July 1986. His career began with Patagonian side Comision de Actividades Infatiles in the Argentine Second Division in 2002 and after two years there he signed for top-division side San Lorenzo.

In his final season at the club in 2007, they won the Clausura after finishing six points clear of runners-up Boca Juniors. In the summer of 2007, Ulloa signed for another Argentine Premier team, Arsenal Sarandi, but played only a few games there before moving to Olimpo that same season.

At the end of the 2007/8 campaign, Ulloa headed across the Atlantic and his European adventure began in Spain where he joined CD Castellon in the Segunda Division.

He built up some consistency with Castellon, scoring 31 goals in 78 games before the club was relegated in 2010 and he departed to join La Liga side Almeria in June.

His La Liga debut came against Osasuna, with his first goal coming against Real Sociedad in a 2-2 draw in September 2010. Almeria were relegated to the Segunda Division that season but in the following campaign, Ulloa finished as the club’s and the league’s leading goal-scorer with 29 goals in all competitions.

In January 2013, he attracted the attention of Brighton boss Gus Poyet in the English Championship and the Seagulls splashed out a fee reported to be in the region of GBP2 million.

The deal was held up due to Ulloa not possessing a European passport but he made up for lost time by scoring an equaliser on his debut in an FA Cup third-round tie against Arsenal, although Theo Walcott’s late winner for the Gunners meant Ulloa finished on the losing side.

In March 2013 he became the first player to score a hat-trick at Brighton’s AMEX Stadium in a 4-1 win over Huddersfield Town but the season ended with disappointment in the play-offs.

It was a similar story in the 2013/14 campaign as the goals continued to flow until it mattered the most and he could not find the net in the two-legged play-off defeat to Derby.

While Brighton had to come to terms with another season in the Championship, Ulloa was handed a ticket to the Premier League when his record of 31 goals in 65 games persuaded Leicester to break their transfer record to sign Ulloa in a GBP8 million deal.

He looked instantly at home at the King Power Stadium, scoring on his debut in a 2-2 draw with Everton, and looked to be one of the signings of the summer when he took his tally to five goals in five games with a brace in the 5-3 victory over Manchester United.

It suggested the Foxes would have no problems making the step up to the top flight but the goals then dried up for Ulloa and he went nine matches without finding the net as the team plummeted down the table.

Recent goals against Aston Villa and Spurs have restored some confidence but both came in defeats. Time is running out if Ulloa and Leicester want to spend more than one season mixing with the big boys.

Ulloa is married to Maria and they have a daughter called Sophia.

FACTFILE NAME: Leonardo Ulloa POSITION: Striker CLUB: Leicester City D.O.B: 26/7/1986

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: His fantastic header to score the first of his two goals in the 5-3 win against Manchester United earlier this season.

MOMENT TO FORGET: Receiving a straight red card for Brighton against Reading in September 2013 for a high boot challenge on Royals defender Alex Pearce.

© PA Sport