Jeffrey Schlupp, you sweet, sweet man.
As the news broke of the Ghanian’s departure from Leicester City to Crystal Palace for a reported £12 million on Friday, I found myself thinking what could have been.
Schlupp, only 24, has been a mainstay with the Foxes’ first team for the better part of a half decade. A product of the academy, he’s been with the club in some estimation since he was a wee boy of 11. He’s got the tools to be an elite player, the drive to push himself forward and the mild disposition to keep it all together.
But what happened? Why did Leicester and manager Clauidio Ranieri give up on a player who boasts other-worldly athletic ability with the prime of his career still ahead of him?
Well, despite what our pal Jeff was able display on the pitch (more on that shortly), he lacked the finishing touches to make himself an indispensable part of any of Leicester’s teams over the last five seasons.
Schlupp, as a player, was what you might refer to as a bit of a mixed bag. Starting his career as a striker who netted a hat-trick in his competitive debut against Rotherham United in the League Cup 1st round (yes, the 1st round), Schlupp never developed the qualities necessary to be a leader of the frontline. He eventually found himself sliding back through the formation as a left winger and left back. Makes sense, right?
He played well but never truly grasped either of his new positions and often found himself as the player most likely to be replaced when a better option was available.
This was due in large part to Schlupp not being able to take that oh-so-necessary next step. His finishing as a striker was practically non-existent. Like as if he was shooting for the first time each time he had an attempt on goal. That bad.
His crossing ability and play-making as a winger rarely created enough chances. And when deployed as a full-back, well, he mostly relied on that athletic ability to recover when superior players got past him...which was a lot.
But it wasn’t all bad for our Jeffrey. He popped up here and there with some timely goals (though 10 in his 122 appearances for the club may (read should) tell you otherwise). The below against Liverpool at Anfield, however, was a particular highlight.
He could take on a player with the ball at his feet and never shied away from running head on at whole defenses, even if he was by his lonesome. His buccaneering style of play was many times criticized but it sure was entertaining.
The speed and power he put on display were second-to-none (except when he was in the driver’s seat of his Lamborghini) and was so impressive that even the mighty Manchester United took him on trial back in 2013. He always had the ability to catch an eye...but unfortunately, the longer you watched, the more frustrated and disillusioned you became with our young would-be.
What Schlupp represented for me though, particularly in his earlier years, was hope. He was the player who was eventually going to break out and help lead Leicester to the promised land. His dynamic talent and unmatched physical ability would surely be the difference somewhere, at some point, in some match. It just had to be.
So every year, we watched and we waited. We expected him to take the next step. To evolve into the world-beating talent that the club so desperately wanted to produce. It just never quite materialized. Every year the rumors suggested that Leicester had given up and would move on from a player not yet 25.
And this January, it finally happened.
The marriage ended and Schlupp moved on to funhouse that is Crystal Palace with a chance to prove himself all over again. Will he become the player Leicester supporters dreamed he would? Remains to be seen. Will we regret selling him if he does? Honestly, probably not.
13 years with #lcfc - some amazing memories and a massive part of my life. Thank you to everyone at the club and the fans for your support.— Jeffrey Schlupp (@Jeffrey_Schlupp) January 13, 2017
Schlupp meant a lot to Leicester but it just wasn’t meant to be, no matter how you shake it.
So with that, I say to you, Jeff, good luck and godspeed. Hopefully removing the burden of being the ‘nearly man’ at Leicester will propel you to greater heights...heights that are hopefully a bit lower than where your shots normally ended up.