Mexico Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa – The Man, The Myth, The Legend

By Светлана Бекетова - soccer.ru, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70186195

Guillermo Ochoa has become an urban legend. Football fans know him as the Mexico goalkeeper more than any of the clubs he has played for. Memo, as he is fondly known, is a very agile and classy goalkeeper.  

Who is Mexico’s Goalkeeper?

Mexico’s goalkeeper is Guillermo Ochoa. To find out more about his career at both club and international level, read on!

Ochoa has made a career out of making world-class saves, especially for Mexico. Ochoa is one of the most recognizable goalkeepers of all time with his trademark headband and his curly locks. 

The 38-year-old started his career in 2004 and he is still going strong to this day. Currently playing for Serie A side Salernitana, Ochoa also still represents Mexico as their goalkeeper, having already won 143 caps for the National team. Memo is also the captain of his national side. 

By Светлана Бекетова – soccer.ru, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70186195

Let’s take a look at the career of one of the finest International goalkeepers of all time. 

Club America – Humble Beginnings  

Ochoa started his club career at Club America. He was handed his debut at the age of 18 when the veteran Adolfo Rios suffered an injury. Ochoa’s performances through the season were so impressive that he ended up winning the Rookie of the Year award.   

After an impressive breakthrough year, Ochoa saw his minutes get reduced as experienced competition arrived after the retirement of Rios. But a managerial change saw Ochoa get reinstated as Club America’s no.1 and this time for good. 

Guillermo Ochoa’s star kept rising after he became a permanent fixture. His incredible presence between the sticks helped Club America to a league title in 2005 and in the same year, he won the Campeon de Campeones. 

The glory didn’t stop as Club America and Ochoa won the 2006 CONCACAF Champions Cup. Ochoa’s reputation was breaking the glass ceiling by this time as he was nominated for the prestigious Ballon d’Or as one of the candidates. Ochoa was one of only 3 players who played outside Europe to be nominated for the award.

Memo also won back-to-back Golden Glove awards between 2005-2007. By the time 2010 rolled through, Ochoa was getting linked to some of the biggest clubs in the World including Manchester United. 

Honours 

  • Mexican Primera Division
  • Campeon de Campeones
  • CONCACAF Champions Cup

Ajaccio – Foray Into Europe

Guillermo Ochoa joined French Ligue 1 side Ajaccio in 2011. It was his first foray into a European league. It would also be his toughest challenge yet as he had joined a team that had just been promoted from Ligue 2. 

Ochoa did not disappoint as he made crucial saves throughout the campaign and his impact was so huge at the club that despite conceding the joint-most goals in Ligue 1, he was voted Player of the Season by Ajaccio fans. Ochoa kept 8 clean sheets in his debut season. Ajaccio narrowly missed relegation as they finished 16th.

The next season Ochoa was tipped to depart Ajaccio but he stayed at the club. Ochoa again helped the club survive the drop, Memo’s incredible performances helped keep Ajaccio in Ligue 1 but only JUST. Ajaccio finished just a place above relegation slots and yet again Ochoa was named Player of the Season by the fans. 

Ochoa’s heroics were not enough the following season as Ajaccio finally dropped back down to Ligue 2. Despite a season to forget, Ochoa again had a very good season personally. Ochoa was praised for his performance against PSG that season where Ajaccio almost claimed a famous win only to be denied by a Cavani leveller. 

Malaga and Granada

After suffering relegation with Ajaccio, Ochoa moved to Spanish club Malaga. Despite previous impressive performances and being an elite international keeper, Ochoa never found consistent playing time at Malaga. He was often used as a backup keeper to Carlos Kameni. 

Ochoa was voted the 7th best keeper in the World in 2014 by the IFFHS(International Federation for Football History and Statistics). This was all because of his international exploits with Mexico. 

After two underwhelming seasons with Malaga, Ochoa joined Granada on loan for the season. Granada had a terrible season that year, they conceded a record 82 goals in the campaign but Ochoa also had the most saves in the season. 

Despite shipping a record number of goals, Memo was voted the Player of the Season by Granada fans. 

Standard Liege – Finding Back the Rhythm

After the completion of his loan move to Granada, Ochoa became a free agent and decided to join Belgian side Standard Liege. Guillermo Ochoa spent two years at Standard Liege and he played two full seasons in Belgium. 

In his second season, Ochoa managed to win the fan’s Player of the Year award. Ochoa played as their starting goalkeeper in both the league and Europe. Standard Liege and Guillermo Ochoa managed to win the 2018-18 Belgian Cup. With a successful end to his second season, Ochoa decided to head back to Club America.

Honours

  • Belgian Cup

Club America – Familiar Surroundings

Guillermo Ochoa returned to Club America in 2019 and he immediately became the highest-paid Mexican player in the league. Ochoa was earning $4.4m annually on his return to Liga MX

Ochoa did not win any team accolades in his second spell at the club but he did manage to achieve a personal milestone. Ochoa surpassed Adrian Chavez’s record of 110 clean sheets and became a bonafide legend at Club America. 

On 29 August 2020, Ochoa wore the captain’s armband at Club America for the very first time. After three and a half years at the club, Ochoa moved back to Europe. 

Salernitana – Back to Europe and Still Going Strong

Guillermo Ochoa moved to Italy in December 2022. Guillermo joined Salernitana who had just been promoted to Serie A. Ochoa’s impressive performance for the newly promoted side helped them stay in the top division and in doing so Ochoa yet again won the fan’s Player of the Year award.  

Guillermo Ochoa is still at Salernitana and going strong. Expect him to start between the sticks at the Italian club next season as well. 

Ochoa’s International Career as Mexico’s Goalkeeper – A Living Legend and a Superhero 

2004-2005

Guillermo Ochoa was first called up to the Mexican International team for the 2004 Athens Olympics and then again for the 2005 GOLD Cup. Ochoa was only 19 when he got his first call-up but he did not play in both the tournaments.    

2006

Ochoa’s debut came against Hungary in a friendly game. After that, Memo was called up for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. He was selected as the third-choice goalkeeper for Mexico. 

2007

After the conclusion of the World Cup, Ochoa was regularly named in the Mexico team, now as a second-choice keeper. He was part of the Mexican national team for the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He played one match in that tournament as Mexico finished runners-up to the United States.  

Ochoa’s star for the national team began to rise in the 2007 Copa America. He played against Brazil in their group stage and kept a clean sheet, Memo was praised for his excellent performance. He found himself in the starting line-up yet again, this time against Uruguay for the 3rd place in the tournament, Mexico ran out 3-1 winners. 

2008

2008 was a big year for Guillermo Ochoa as he was named captain of the Mexican team for the qualifiers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately, Mexico and Ochoa bowed out of the Olympics in the group stage. 

2010

In 2010, Ochoa played almost every 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification game and helped Mexico qualify for the World Cup. Ochoa also starred in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup as he ended up winning the tournament with Mexico, his performance against Costa Rica in the semis was praised unanimously. Ochoa had won his first major trophy with his country. 

Guillermo was selected for the 2010 World Cup and despite playing the majority of the qualification games, he was controversially dropped to the bench in favour of the veteran Oscar Perez. 

2011

The biggest controversy of Ochoa’s career happened during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup as he along with four members of the Mexican national team tested positive for a banned substance and they were subsequently withdrawn from the national squad. The banned substance was Clenbuterol. All the players were acquitted by the Mexican Football Federation(MFF) after it was determined that the cause of the matter was the contamination of meat. WADA(World Anti-Doping Agency) also withdrew their appeals against the players after they received the full report. 

2014

Guillermo Ochoa finally had his dream realised as he played his first World Cup game as Mexico’s number 1 Goalkeeper in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. 

Ochoa had the game of his life against Brazil in the second group game, he kept a clean sheet and he even earned praise from the Brazilian side. Ochoa and Mexico eventually made the knock-out rounds but they got knocked out in the first knock-out round against the Netherlands. 

Nonetheless, Ochoa finished with two Man of the Match awards in just four games in the World Cup. 

2017

Mexico qualified for the 2017 Confederations Cup. They breezed through the group stages alongside Portugal. Ochoa had another impressive run during the tournament. 

Mexico finished fourth in the Confederations Cup, and Ochoa won the Man of the Match award for the 3rd place play-off game. 

2018

In the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Guillermo Ochoa had a remarkable tournament. His most notable performance came against Germany in the group stage in which he managed 9 saves to help Mexico win the game 1-0. 

Ochoa finished the tournament with 25 saves with only Thibaut Courtois finishing higher with 27 saves. Ochoa made his 25 saves in just four games which is why it was so remarkable. 

2019

Ochoa had yet another impressive tournament, this time the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Ochoa won the tournament for the second time in his career but this time with another feather in his cap. 

Ochoa was named in the tournament’s Best XI and also received the Golden Glove Award. His most influential game of the tournament came against Costa Rica in the quarterfinal as he made a critical stop in the penalty shoot-out to send Mexico through to the semis. 

2020

Ochoa’s next silverware for his national team was the Bronze medal he won in the 2020 Summer Olympics. He was one of the over-age players in the squad. This was Ochoa’s second participation in the Olympics but first medal.

2022

Memo’s performances in the 2022 Qatar World Cup were remarkable as well and that was despite Mexico not being at their very best. Mexico could not get past the group stages of the competitions but Ochoa had another fine personal tournament. 

He kept a clean sheet as well as saved a penalty against Poland in their first group game before making many key saves against Argentina and then against Saudi Arabia. 

Guillermo Ochoa is currently sixth on the list of the record cap holders for Mexico with 143 appearances. 

Honours

  • CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009, 2011, 2015, 2019, 2023
  • Olympics Bronze Medal 2020

Traits

Guillermo Ochoa throughout his career has been known to have cat-like reflexes. He made a living out of making great reflex stops. Mexico has depended on him numerous times and he has delivered every single time for his national team.

Ochoa is also one of those rare players who have had more impact on their national team than at their clubs. Ochoa has always been more effective for Mexico than at the club level. Podolski is another such example.  

Ochoa’s catching game is strong as well, which should not be a surprise considering he idolised the great Dane Peter Schmeichel. Ochoa has always been good at crosses and he always timed his leaps to perfection.  

Another great aspect of Ochoa’s keeping is his ability as a sweeper. He may not be as strong or quick to get out of the box but within the box he knows when to time his charge towards an attacker. 

If an opposition player goes past the last defender then Ochoa reaches the attacker in a flash. His cat-like reflex then takes over. 

 

Ochoa is something else when he puts on that famous green jersey of Mexico. Legend!