Last Wednesday AC Ajaccio fans could be forgiven for thinking they were hallucinating when their official website revealed that they had signed Mexican international goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, only for the article to be removed hours later. It must have felt like déjà vu then when the transfer was announced again on Friday but this time it was for real. Ajaccio, the relative minnows of Ligue 1 with the smallest operating budget of any side in the league at €16m had signed a first-choice international goalkeeper who is regarded by many as one of the best stoppers in the world.
The transfer was held up for a few days as Ajaccio sought confirmation from the Mexican Football Federation that he was not guilty of taking banned substance Clenbuterol in a recent failed doping test which sparked controversy during El Tri’s recent Gold Cup victory.
Announced on a three-year deal on Tuesday now that he has received his official release documents from the Mexican Football Federation, the 25 year-old at one point was rumoured to have cancelled his flight to Corsica to sign his contract amidst whispers that Paris Saint-Germain were offering him double what he will earn at Ajaccio. Determined not to appear to have jumped the gun though, the tiny outfit eventually won out offering the player guaranteed first team football and pulled off a massive coup in the Mercato.
What sort of player are Ajaccio getting then? Hailed at one point as a possible replacement for Edwin Van Der Sar at Manchester United, and chased by Arsenal, Barcelona and Fulham in the past, the Mexican has an outstanding reputation in his homeland. Nominated for the 2007 Ballon d’Or Wolrd Footballer of the Year, Ochoa is a quality shot-stopper with a good command of his penalty area and a penchant for saving penalties. Although he is often criticised for his perceived weakness at blocking long range shots, the player is a top talent with superstar status both on and off the pitch.
A marketable star thanks to his involvement with the FIFA Football video games franchise alongside international teammate Andrés Guardado, he has also become tabloid fodder in recent years after conducting a brief, albeit public, relationship with Mexican musician Dulce María in 2006. He also has a huge David Beckham-esque following in Mexico which Ajaccio have been quick to acknowledge by announcing that they will be creating a club fanpage solely in Spanish to cater for his followers.
“We will soon have a special page in Spanish for our Mexican friends” read the statement.
Ochoa rose to prominence in Mexico’s 2-0 CopaAmericavictory over Brazil in 2007, having made his international debut in 2005 against Hungary. Despite his relatively young age, he has amassed 211 club appearances and 45 international caps to date. A regular international despite facing heavy competition from José de Jesús Corona and Alfredo Talavera, it was his outstanding resume and availability on a free transfer that attracted manager Olivier Pantaloni. Speaking after the player’s first training session to the club’s official website he said:
“When you look at his CV it is impressive when you consider his age. To have played as many professional games and to have had so many international selections, it is not for no reason; he has great ability and will demonstrate it this season.”
So it appears that Ajaccio have snared a bargain, but why then did he choose to move to Corsica over reported offers from PSG, Olympiakos, Roma and a host of Spanish sides?
The player has yet to speak publicly about the move so until then nobody knows his personal reasons behind the move and what caused the farce leading up to the transfer. However, it was initially believed that there was a severance fee in Ochoa’s contract, despite it expiring, that l’Ours initially were unaware of until they had agreed terms with the player.
Interestingly, it has recently been revealed that the Mexican television company Televisa who own Ochoa’s previous side Club América will pay part of his wages. The company’s sports network Televisa Deportes Network also owns the rights to broadcast the French league in Mexico and Ochoa’s presence in Ligue 1 will attract it many new followers .
With that now behind him, the Mexican will be raring to go come the start of the season as this move has given him the opportunity to prove himself in Europe that he has craved for so long. One thing is for sure though, if Ajaccio are to keep hold of their new prized asset then they will need to defy the odds to stay in Ligue 1 this season.