Memo Ochoa is close to getting his wish. The goal keeper who emerged from the Nido de Coapa (the Eagle’s nest) will in all likelihood be playing in Europe this fall.
After the customary speculation of will he or won’t he, where, when, and how, Mr. Marketable has landed in the hands of AC Ajaccio, the Corsican side that recently earned promotion in Ligue 1. He will be their guardien de but this fall.
It’s not of G16 team, but it’s a start.
Ochoa will go from playing in the 100,000+ Estadio Azteca to the slightly more modest Stade François Coty, with a capacity of around 11,000.
It ain't the Azteca, but it is cozy
Of course, this is all still contingent upon whether or not Ochoa is exonerated from the doping scandal that left him out of the Gold Cup. He’ll know one way or another by July 7. The club is betting that he will be cleared.
Earlier this year, Ochoa, who was in the final months of his contract with his club, flirted with a transfer to Europe. However, Club America, desperate to get something for their property, valued him out of any reasonable range for a keeper in his mid-20s. He was worth a whole lot more to them than what the market was willing to bear. Besides, goalkeepers aren’t market makers. And unless you are really, really, good, teams aren’t going to sacrifice a foreigner spot for a net minder.
Ochoa has the talent to be a world class goal keeper, but for some reason it looked like his progress had stagnated over the past few years. And in what was supposed to be his World Cup, his coach opted for someone he trusted in Oscar Perez. Word out of Mexico was that the coaching he was receiving at his club was less than ideal (some even called it joke). Moreover, the national GK coach, Nicolas Navarro, worked nonstop with Ochoa to correct a few of his shortcomings. “He had been making the same mistakes in his games. We had a chat, analyzed video, worked with him on the mental side, and in the end, we were able to recover his good form.” Navarro said.
Ochoa, like any other player, dreams of playing with one of Europe’s big clubs. It will be easier, then, for him to reach that goal by impressing in Ligue 1 playing with a modest squad, than it has been playing for one of Mexico’s big 4. Let’s face it, he will have plenty of opportunities to stop shots as AC Ajaccio fights to stay in the top flight. If they are to stay up, he will have to play out of his mind.
Unlike outfield players who tend to peak in their late 20’s, goalkeepers usually reach their full potential on the other side of 30. Ochoa turns 26 in a few weeks. He has youth on his side and landed in a spot where his skills will be tested relentlessly. It’s up to him, now.