The case of Memo Ochoa shows a Mexico bias to El Tri coach Chepo de la Torre's player selection for the national team.
Ochoa had been somewhat forgotten by some, among them the one man who counts by El Tri standards. Despite Ochoa’s consistently spectacular performances for French Ligue 1 bottom feeders Ajaccio, Jose Manuel de la Torre clearly sees Jesus Corona as his No. 1 for El Tri.
Backup goalkeeper is the easiest position in the world for fans of a national team to forget about. Goalkeepers are seldom injured, and the number one tends to stay that way because, in order to have gotten there in the first place, he has to be solid.
A choice among top notch goalkeepers like Chuy and Memo becomes a matter of specific preferences - De la Torre prefers the ranginess and shot-stopping of Corona to the spectacular athleticism of Ochoa.
It doesn’t help that - despite doing everything possible in France and winning accolades on the continent - Ochoa has for all intents and purposes spent the last few years out of the direct sight of Mexican soccer fans and pundits. You have to specifically seek out Ajaccio games to see Memo play. Maybe De la Torre hasn’t.
That creates an interesting dichotomy. Ochoa has made a name for himself in Europe, by taking less money to leave Club America and sign on with a smaller club in a good European league, where he has become comfortable and made himself a star. In Europe, he’s gained respect he never would have garnered had he stayed at America, even by impressing in an international tournament.
In Mexico, however, it seems to be quite the opposite. Leaving a top Mexican club for a small French one looks to have been interpreted by some as a step down or even a slap in the face to Mexican soccer. Whether that’s the case or not, what’s indisputable is that Ochoa has lost his spot in the national team while playing the best soccer of his career.
His play hasn’t been lost on European giant Liverpool, which is interested in Ochoa, not Corona. The takeaway here is that perhaps we should be cautious of a Mexico bias in player selection for El Tri.
It’s obvious when a player is doing well at a team like Manchester United or in La Liga that he should be a part of the Mexican national team. But when a player like Ochoa wins plaudits across the continent but has trouble getting back into the national team lineup, something doesn’t quite add up.
Further to that, the case of Memo Ochoa in France is full of lessons for Mexican soccer. In this case, the player was willing to try his luck at a team not known as one of the best on the continent, in order to spread his wings and test his ceiling.
The X-factor here was money, as Ochoa had to temporarily take less in order to eventually earn the upcoming big payday. It’s a gamble that is paying dividends for Ochoa, and could for other Mexicans as well.
In the end, players taking the initiative to get themselves into better situations is the only way that Mexicans in numbers will move to Europe, given the good salaries on offer in Mexico and the reluctance of Mexican clubs to sell their young stars.
His own initiative has been enough to get Memo Ochoa to the doors of Liverpool. The question now is, when might it get him back into the national team starting lineup? A move to Liverpool or La Liga will obviously make a compelling case, though Ochoa probably shouldn’t have had to wait that long.
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