Eric Cantona

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Eric Cantona
Personal information
Full name Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona
Date of birth May 24, 1966 (age 40)
Place of birth    Marseille, France
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.86 m)
Nickname King Eric
Playing position Forward
Youth clubs
1981–1983 Auxerre
Senior clubs1
Years Club App (Gls)*
Martigues (loan)
Bordeaux (loan)
Montpellier (loan)
Leeds United
Manchester United
82 (23)
22 (5)
11 (6)
33 (10)
18 (8)
16 (2)
28 (9)
185 (82)   
National team
1987–1994 France 45 (20)
Teams managed
France Beach soccer team

1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.
* Appearances (Goals)

Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona (born May 24, 1966 in Marseille) is a French former footballer of the late 1980s and 1990s. He ended his professional footballing career at Manchester United where he won four Premiership titles in five years, including two league and FA Cup "doubles". Cantona is often regarded as having played a major talismanic role in the revival of Manchester United as a footballing powerhouse and he enjoys iconic status at the club. In 2001 he was voted their player of the century, and to this day United fans refer to him as "The King".


[edit] Career

[edit] France

Cantona's first club was Auxerre, where he spent two years in the youth team before making his debut in 1983.

The whole of 1984 saw Cantona's footballing career put on hold as he carried out his national service. After discharge he was loaned out to FC Martigues in the French Second Division. Rejoining Auxerre and signing a professional contract in 1986, his performances in the First Division were good enough to earn him his first full international cap.

He was part of the French under-21 side that won the 1988 U21 European Championship and shortly after that success, he transferred to Olympique de Marseille (also known as "L'OM"), the club he supported as a boy, for a French record fee. Cantona had quite often shown signs of being 'short tempered' in his career to date, and in January 1989 during a friendly game against Torpedo Moscow he ripped off and threw away his jersey after being substituted. His club responded by banning him for a month. Just a few months earlier, he had been banned from international matches for insulting the national coach on TV.

Having struggled to settle at Marseille, Cantona moved to Bordeaux on a six-month loan and then to Montpellier on a year-long loan. At Montpellier, he was involved in a fight with team-mate Jean-Claude Lemoult and threw his boots in Lemoult's face. The incident led to six players demanding that Cantona be sacked. However, with the support of team-mates such as Laurent Blanc and Carlos Valderrama, the club retained his services and Cantona was instrumental as the team went on to win the French Cup. His form persuaded Marseille to take him back.

Back at Marseille, Cantona initially played well under the new coach Franz Beckenbauer. However, the Marseille chairman Bernard Tapie was not satisfied with the results, and replaced Beckenbauer with Raymond Goethals with whom Cantona did not see eye-to-eye. Cantona was also continually at odds with Tapie and despite helping the team win the French Division 1 title, he was transferred to Nîmes the following season.

In December 1991, during a match for Nîmes he threw the ball at the referee, having been angered by one of his decisions. He was summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the French Football Federation and was banned for a month. Cantona responded by walking up to each member of the hearing committee in turn and calling him an "idiot". His ban was increased to 2 months. For Cantona this was the last straw and he announced his retirement from football in December 1991.

The French national team coach Michel Platini was a keen fan of Cantona, and persuaded him to make a comeback. On the advice of Gérard Houllier, he moved to England to restart his career.

[edit] England

[edit] Leeds United

After having originally come to England to trial for Sheffield Wednesday, in February 1992 Cantona joined Leeds United A.F.C., where he was a part of the team that won the final old First Division championship in (1991-92). He was also inspirational in the Charity Shield 4-3 win over Liverpool in 1992, scoring a hat-trick.

He however left Leeds before the end of the 1992-93 season, which saw them finishing 17th in the newly formed Premier League (one place above relegation), moving to Manchester United in November 1992 for the relatively small fee of £1.2 million, much to the disgust of the Leeds fans.

[edit] Manchester United

United's season had been disappointing up to Cantona's signing. They had had problems scoring goals: Brian McClair was off form, and summer signing Dion Dublin had broken his leg early in the season. However, Cantona quickly settled into the team, not only scoring many goals but also creating chances for the other players. For the next two years, United went on an amazing run, winning the inaugural Premiership in 1993 (their first Championship title in 26 years) and then "the double" in 1994, with Cantona's two penalties helping them to a 4-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup Final. Cantona was voted PFA Player Of The Year in 1994.

Eric Cantona kicks Crystal Palace fan Simmons.
Eric Cantona kicks Crystal Palace fan Simmons.

Cantona then became infamous for an incident that occurred on 25 January 1995. In an away match against Crystal Palace, after being sent off by the referee for a vengeful kick on Palace defender Richard Shaw (after Shaw had pulled his shirt without punishment), he launched a 'kung-fu' style kick against a racist Crystal Palace fan, Matthew Simmons, who later was found to have an affiliation with the BNP. (At Simmons' subsequent trial for threatening language and behaviour, he attacked the prosecution counsel after being found guilty, leaping over a bench and executing a flying kick of his own. He was sentenced to seven days in jail, but only served 24 hours of his sentence.) At a press conference called later, Cantona gave what is perhaps his most famous quote. As the journalists gathered to hear him speak, Cantona entered the room, sat down and said, in a slow and deliberate manner: "When the seagulls... follow the trawler... it's because they think... sardines will be thrown into the sea". He then got up from his seat and left, leaving many of the assembled crowd bemused. He was sentenced to 120 hours of community service after an appeal court overturned a 2 week prison sentence for assault. He was also suspended by The Football Association until the following October. Manchester United eventually lost the Premiership title to Blackburn.

There had been much speculation that Cantona would leave English football when his ban finished, but Alex Ferguson persuaded him to stay in Manchester and Cantona was once again inspirational. United had sold several key players at the start of the season and replaced them with players from the club's youth team and their prospects of winning the league were not looking good. Much hype surrounded Cantona's return game, against Liverpool on 1 October 1995. In the match, Cantona set up a goal for Nicky Butt inside 2 minutes, and then scored a penalty after Ryan Giggs (the one player Cantona claimed had a telepathic understanding with him) had been upended. Eight months without competitive football had inevitably taken its toll and Cantona struggled for form prior to Christmas. Things then changed, however, with his goals helping United to recapture the league having been twelve points behind Newcastle United in January 1996. There was a spate of important 1-0 wins for United, with Cantona the goal scorer. Fittingly, it was the same 1-0 scoreline, and the same scorer, in that year's FA Cup Final against Liverpool. His redemption was complete after the scandals and lows of a year earlier. Cantona gave a post-match interview saying: "You know that's life. Up and down." Manchester United became the first team to win "the double" twice.

Cantona galvanised the United team to greater success in Europe the following year, with the likes of Ryan Giggs and youngsters David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville emerging under his influence. As United retained the league in the 1996-97 season, Cantona had won six league titles in seven years, the exception being the 1995 season which he had largely missed through suspension. At the end of an admittedly lacklustre season by his standards, which was fueled by United's eliminated to Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, his announcement that he was retiring from football at the age of 30 still came as a surprise. Shortly afterwards, he became captain of the French National Beach Football team.

In 2004 Cantona was quoted as saying "I'm so proud the fans still sing my name, but I fear tomorrow they will stop. I fear it because I love it. And everything you love, you fear you will lose",.

In 2006 The Sun newspaper reported Cantona as saying that Manchester United had lost their soul and that the current players were a bunch of sheep. The Old Trafford idol reckoned the days of maverick entertainers like himself and George Best were gone and feared the Red Devils were betraying their past by putting out boring, functional teams. However on the Contrary he was interviewed in the Number 7's issue of 'United Magazine' in August 2006 stating he will only come back to Manchester United as 'Number 1' (meaning not return as assistant manager or coach) and would create a team like no other and play the way he thinks football should be played.

Cantona opposes the Malcolm Glazer takeover of Manchester United, and has stated that he will not return to the club, even as a manager, while the Glazer family is in charge. [1]

The Manchester United Song for Cantona is "5 Cantonas, 4 Cantonas...and an Eric Cantona"(to the tune of '12 days of Christmas') sung in pretty much all matches by the Old Trafford faithful.

[edit] French National Team

The Art of Game painting featuring Eric Cantona, Phillip Neville, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Art of Game painting featuring Eric Cantona, Phillip Neville, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Eric Cantona was given his full international début against West Germany in August 1987 by the then national team manager Henri Michel. In September 1988, angered after being dropped from the national team, Cantona insulted Michel in a post-match TV interview and was indefinitely banned from all international matches. However, Michel was sacked shortly after that having failed to qualify for the 1990 World Cup.

The new coach was Michel Platini and one of his first acts was to recall Cantona who was a favourite of his. He claimed that Cantona would be selected as long as he was playing competitive top-class football; Platini had initiated Cantona's move to England to restart his career. France qualified for the 1992 European Football Championship held in Sweden, but failed to win a single game despite the striking partnership of Cantona and Jean-Pierre Papin. Platini resigned after the finals to be replaced by Gérard Houllier.

Under Houllier, France then failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.A. after losing the final game 2:1 at home to Bulgaria when a draw would have sufficed. David Ginola lost the ball in the game which led to Bulgaria's winning goal by Emil Kostadinov. Cantona was reportedly angry with Ginola after the game. Houllier resigned and Aimé Jacquet took over.

Jacquet began to rebuild the national team in preparation for Euro 96 (the 1996 European Championship) and appointed Cantona as the captain. Cantona remained the captain until the Selhurst Park incident in January 1995. The suspension which resulted from this incident also prevented him from playing in international matches.

By the time Cantona's suspension had been completed, he had lost his role as the team's playmaker to Zinedine Zidane, as Jacquet had revamped the squad with some new blood and built it around Zidane. Cantona, Papin and Ginola were never again selected for the French team and missed Euro 96. Though there was criticism about Cantona's omission, as he was playing his best football in the FA Premier League, Jacquet himself stated that the team had done well without Cantona, and that he wanted to keep faith with the players who had taken them so far [1]. The decision was vindicated as Les Bleus subsequently won the World Cup in 1998.

To this day, Cantona still harbours resentment for the national team but also admiration for his adopted country; at Euro 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup, he asserted he would support England and not France.

[edit] Career in "retirement"

Cantona's subsequent career has mostly been in the French cinema, primarily as an actor although he has also directed a short film Apporte-moi ton amour in 2002; outside of France, he had a cameo as the French ambassador in the movie Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett in 1998. See filmography below.

Eric Cantona in an advert for Nike. Cantona was born in the same year as England's World Cup triumph.
Eric Cantona in an advert for Nike. Cantona was born in the same year as England's World Cup triumph.

Since retiring from professional football Cantona has appeared in numerous European television advertisements, especially for Nike. Cantona made cameos in two memorable commercials, one starring the Brazilian national team playing football in an airport, and another involving the national teams of both Brazil and Portugal. In a worldwide advertising campaign during the run-up to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, he starred as the organiser of "underground" games (branded by Nike as 'Scorpion football') between football superstars like Thierry Henry, Hidetoshi Nakata, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Luís Figo. In an earlier UK Nike commercial, he appeared playing "amateur" football on Hackney Marshes with other stars including Ian Wright, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler. In a Nike campaign in the advance of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Cantona appears as the lead spokesman for the "Joga Bonito" organization, an association attempting to eliminate acting and fake play from football. He also starred in an Irish EuroMillions advertisement.

Cantona has continued his interest in beach soccer games in southern Asia and at the Inaugural Kronenbourg beach soccer in 2002, in the city of Brighton. He managed the French Team which won the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005. He also coached the 2006 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup French National Team, which finished in third place.

Cantona's achievements in the English League were marked in 2002 when he was made an Inaugural Inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame.

[edit] Trivia

  • Eric was born in Paris but grew up in the Mediterranean city of Marseille in the Caillols suburb. He was the middle son in a family of three boys.
  • Cantona spent 1984 doing his national service in the French Army
  • His first ever appearance for the Reds was against Benfica in Lisbon, in a friendly match to mark the 50th birthday of Eusebio.
  • He did not always wear the 7 shirt. In Cantona's first season for United, prior to squad numbers in English football, when fit Bryan Robson wore the 7 shirt, with Eric often wearing 11. In 1993/94 at the advent of squad numbers he was given 7 with Bryan Robson wearing 12 in his final season before retirement. Beckham took the shirt in 1997/98 with Cristiano Ronaldo suceeding him in 2003/04.
  • No sprawling mansion for Eric, whilst playing for United he lived in a modest semi-detached house in the town of Boothstown, west of Manchester. He said he did not need a big house or the trappings of wealth.
  • Eric used to drink in the Peveril Of The Peak bar in the Castlefield area of Manchester city centre.
  • His final competitive game came against West Ham on 11th May 1997. His final appearance before retiring was five days later on Friday 16th May. In a testimonial for David Busst against Coventry City at Highfield Road, Eric scored twice in a 2-2 draw.
  • Eric was the star of many Nike adverts, famously playing against a team of demonic creatures in "Good vs Evil" at a Roman coliseum and playing amateur football on Hackney Marshes.
  • He was later the ring master of the £10 million 'The Secret Tournament' in a caged arena featuring stars like Henry, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Luis Figo.
  • Cantona is still featuring in Nike ads today, nearly ten years after his retirement he front's their Germany 2006 ad campaign.
  • He has starred in many films. His first speaking role was in 'Elizabeth' in 1998 and he went on to star in 'Mookie', 'Les Enfants du Marais'
  • His starring role in 'L'Outremangeur' (The Over-eater) in which he donned a fat suit to play an overweight detective won him praise from movie critics.
  • He was married to Isobel and has two children but is now divorced. His brother Joel was also a footballer and played for Ujpest Dozsa and Stockport County.
  • He became captain of the French National Beach Football team and won the beach soccer world championship in Rio de Janeiro
  • Cantona's personal idols are Maradona, Mickey Rourke, Marlon Brando, Jim Morrison and the French poet Rimbaud.
  • He has been outspoken in his criticism of the Glazer takeover.
  • After he left United he lived in Barcelona for 4 years and then moved to Marseille. He currently lives in Paris.
  • Cantona joins the company of George Best, Alfredo Di Stéfano, and current United star Ryan Giggs, who have never played in a World Cup tournament match despite being stars in their professional club.

[edit] Filmography

A full list of films featuring Eric Cantona can be found at: Eric Cantona at the Internet Movie Database

  • Le bonheur est dans le pré - 1995 - Lionel
  • Eleven Men Against Eleven - 1995 - Player (uncredited)
  • Elizabeth - 1998 - Monsieur de Foix
  • Mookie - 1998 - Antoine Capella
  • Les enfants du marais - 1999 - Jo Sardi
  • La grande vie! - 2001 - Joueur de pétanque 2
  • L'Outremangeur - 2003 - Séléna
  • La vie est à nous - 2005
  • Une belle histoire - 2005

[edit] Quotations

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[edit] By him

  • "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."
  • "I didn't study; I live. You can't study these things - life teaches them to you. You don't find them in a book... I've read a lot of Socrates on Page 3 of the Sun."
  • "Sometimes in life one experiences an emotion which is so strong that it is difficult to think, or to reason. Sometimes you get submerged by emotion. I think it's very important to express it - which doesn't necessarily mean hitting someone. I am very mistrustful of people who are constantly over-intellectualising things. It kills passion. You have to allow yourself to lose control from time to time."
  • "I feel close to the rebelliousness and vigour of the youth here. Perhaps time will separate us, but nobody can deny that here, behind the windows of Manchester, there is an insane love of football, of celebration and of music."
  • "When you are a rich man you are proud to own a Rolls Royce and when you are a poor man you are proud to own a Renault."
  • "France does not deserve Cantona... England deserves Cantona."
  • "The Irish public should bow to the feet of Roy Keane, not slate him as he is the best player they will ever have to boast."
  • "After his first training session in heaven, George Best, from his favourite right wing, turned the head of God who was filling in at left-back. I would love him to save me a place in his team - George Best that is, not God."
  • "I am God."
  • "I might have said that, but on the whole I talk a lot of rubbish."
  • "I don't play against a particular team. I play against the idea of losing." The latter part of the quote was scrawled on Cantona's body for his official photograph for FIFA 100, Pelé's list of the 125 greatest living footballers.
  • Described national teammate Didier Deschamps derisively as "the water-carrier". Cantona meant that Deschamps only existed to pass the ball to more talented players.
  • "I had heart, and I know without heart you cannot play."
  • "Joga Bonito! Play Beautiful!"

[edit] About him

  • "How to create space, and then weave past a couple of defenders, McClair, here's Cantona! He's done it! That is magnificent by Cantona. And after all his problems, and his lack of form, and the criticism that's come his way, there is the perfect riposte." (Commentator for Manchester United F.C. vs. Sunderland A.F.C. match at Old Trafford, 21st of December, 1996.)
  • "I'd give all the champagne I've ever drunk to be playing alongside him in a big European match at Old Trafford." (George Best, 1960s Manchester United legend, pays a fine compliment to Eric)
  • "Collar turned up, back straight, chest stuck out, he glided into the arena as if he owned the F*****g place. Any arena, but nowhere more effectively than Old Trafford. This was his stage. He loved it, the crowd loved him" (Roy Keane, Cantona's successor as Manchester United captain.)
  • Ince about Cantona before he entered court: 'We stayed at the Croydon Park hotel. So we got up in the morning and I've got me suit on - the nuts, know what I mean? I knock on Eric's door and he's standing in jacket, white shirt, long collars like that [he gestures to describe long, pointed collars], unbuttoned so you can see his chest. "Eric, you can't go to court like that", I told him and he says, "I am Cantona, I can go as I want"'.
  • "If a Frenchman goes on about seagulls, trawlers and sardines, he’s called a philosopher. I’d just be called a short Scottish bum talking crap." Gordon Strachan in response to Cantona's famous quote following the 1995 Crystal Palace-Simmons incident.

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Reference

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ FourFourTwo Great Footballers: Eric Cantona 198.

[edit] External links

[edit] Biographical and fan sites

[edit] Cantona in the news

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Flag of France France squad - 1992 European Football Championship Flag of France

1 Martini | 2 Amoros | 3 Silvestre | 4 Petit | 5 Blanc | 6 Casoni | 7 Deschamps | 8 Sauzée | 9 Papin | 10 Fernández | 11 Perez | 12 Cocard | 13 Boli | 14 Durand | 15 Divert | 16 Vahirua | 17 Garde | 18 Cantona | 19 Rousset | 20 Angloma | Coach: Platini