Sat in the Canal+ studio this week for its flagship Canal Football Club show, talking fluent - if accented - French, Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa cut an impressive figure.
Relaxed and decisive, Ochoa had a point to make and did so with grace and aplomb, stating that he would be leaving Ajaccio and that his priority is to stay in Ligue 1, which he and his representative have repeated consistently in interviews.
“It is very early to say where I’m going to end up, but my agent is taking care of that and there are conversations,” said Ochoa on the French program.
Ochoa moved from Club America to Ajaccio in 2011 after he had been on the bench the previous two World Cups for Mexico and has won respect in France for his performances, despite his team being on the brink of relegation this season.
There is one contender for his signature that currently makes most sense for Ochoa and that is Olympique Marseille, one of France’s biggest clubs. It is unlikely to be in European competition next season, but is looking to rebuild for next season and shouldn’t be out of the reckoning for too long.
And with the current goalkeeper Steve Mandanda reported to be close to leaving the club (with Atletico Madrid and Lille possible destinations), the door could be open for Ochoa to step in.
“If he leaves, of course I’d like to go,” stated Ochoa. “(Marseille) is a great club, with big ambition, but we’ll see.”
Then there is the Marcelo Bielsa factor, with the Argentine in talks with L’OM about becoming manager.
Ochoa pointed out on Canal Plus that Bielsa is well known in Mexico for his work with Atlas in the ‘keeper’s native Guadalajara and “El Loco” also passed briefly through his former club America.
Bielsa hasn’t announced his final decision on whether he will take over as Marseille coach, but it would be exciting times in the Mediterranean city if he did and the eyes of Europe would be watching to see if he could challenge the money bags of PSG and Monaco.
It would surely be an extra enticement for Ochoa and Bielsa would be likely to welcome a player who speaks native Spanish and can get commands across in French.
Outside of Marseille, another option for Ochoa that has been whispered about is Toulouse.
Nowhere near as big a club as Marseille, Toulouse nevertheless has its appeal, is a well-run club and would certainly represent a major step up from Ajaccio.
Situated close to the border with Spain, there are plenty of Spanish speakers around town and Ochoa would likely fit in well, especially with the club not having any real No. 1 ‘keeper at present.
Obviously, the ideal would be to go to one of France’s Champions League teams next season, with Ochoa on record saying European competition is vital for him, but it looks complicated at present.
Third-placed Lille boast Nigerian international Vicent Enyeama, who has been in good form and signed a new contract with the club last winter, in a bid to fend off foreign clubs from poaching.
At second-placed Monaco, there is little chance for Ochoa, with all the non-European Union players at the club and the Mexican yet to receive his French citizenship. Besides that, Monaco has Argentine international Sergio Romero, as well as Croatian Danijel Subasic, who is hoping to feature against Mexico in the World Cup this summer.
Finally, at PSG, Italian Salvatore Sirigu has played consistently at a high level since joining in 2011 from Palermo.
Outside of France, there have been persistent rumors of interest in Ochoa from AC Milan and if an offer was on the table paying the right amount of money, it’d be difficult to turn down, despite the possibility it would derail the player’s plans to become an EU citizen.
For now, Marseille looks like the 28-year-old’s most promising and rational option.