No one expected Leicester City to be able to get anywhere close to replicating their remarkable, miraculous Premier League-winning campaign this term. We all predicted that the bigger clubs would be better than they were last season, while the champions would like suffer a little more for a variety of reasons.
Battling on several fronts following Champions League qualification was always likely to be an issue, as was the fact that teams were going to be more alert to their strengths than ever before. It has, perhaps unsurprisingly, turned out that way, with Leicester sitting way down in 15th.
For many, though, Leicester have struggled even more than expected. Their signings in the summer have generally been dire and they are absolutely in a relegation battle, as they sit just five points above the bottom three. And one player sums up their plight in particular; Leonardo Ulloa.
The Argentinian was by no means a regular starter last term as Leicester clinched the title – with just seven of his 29 appearances coming from the beginning – but the fact he played almost 30 matches made him a big part of Claudio Ranieri’s plan with respect to rotation and match substitutions.
This season, however, one start and 11 sub appearances from 22 matches shows how far he has fallen, and what makes that look even worse is the form of Leicester’s other forwards. Islam Slimani – somehow worth £29m, according to the club – has five goals; Jamie Vardy appears to have found his level again with five; Shinji Okazaki and Ahmed Musa have two each.
Yet still Ranieri manages to justify not selecting Ulloa – who actually scored 11 league goals for Leicester the season before last.
With that in mind, it didn’t come as a huge surprise to read reports of Ulloa trying to force his way out of the club. And then on Monday, he took to Twitter and made the pretty strong accusation of betrayal on the part of Ranieri, who reportedly told him he could go for £5m before rejecting an offer almost double that from West Brom.
With all respect for LCFC FANS.
I feel betrayed by Ranieri and let down by the club. I will not play again for them…
— Jose Leonardo Ulloa (@Ciclone1923) January 30, 2017
At this point West Ham United fans are thinking: “I know where this is going.” Regardless of what people think of the principles and moral standing of Ulloa after insisting he “will not play again for them”, there’s surely only one way out of this for everyone.
— Rob Tanner (@RobTannerMerc) January 30, 2017
That he is attempting to force through a move to Sunderland is in itself perhaps another indictment of his situation and Leicester’s fall since becoming champions.
This is the same Sunderland who have been stinking up the Premier League all season and sit rock-bottom. Perhaps he is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle for David Moyes, but the more realistic outcome of such a move would be that he is relegated from the very same division which he was crowned champion of just last year.
Leicester and their players have found their level. Ulloa will be hoping that he can contribute for either club before the end of the season to avoid putting the ‘champion’ in ‘Championship’.
You know though when Ulloa, most mild mannered bloke at the club, comes out & slates the manager things aren’t right. Shits going on
— Dan (@Dan_1884) January 30, 2017