Éric Cantona (born May 24, 1966 in Marseille) is a former French footballer. He ended his professional footballing career at Manchester United where he won four Premiership titles in five years, including two FA Cup "doubles". Cantona is often regarded as having played a major role in the revival of Manchester United as a footballing powerhouse. In 2000 he was voted Man U's player of the century.
Professional football career
Cantona played in France for first division team Olympique de Marseille (a.k.a. OM). He quite often showed sign of being "short tempered". During a friendly game against Torpedo Moscow Cantona ripped off and threw away his jersey after being substituted. His club responded by banning him for a month. A few weeks later he insulted the coach of the national team on TV.
Cantona moved to Bordeaux on loan and then to Montpellier where he won the French Cup. He returned to Marseille for a time but was transferred to Nimes. During a game he threw the ball at the referee, having been angered by one of his decisions. The French FA banned him for a month. Cantona responded by insulting them once again, and his ban was increased to 2 months. Cantona didn't appreciate the ban and decided to retire from football.
Thanks to pressure from high profile football fans Cantona was persuaded to make a comeback and moved to England to restart his career.
Cantona first joined Leeds United on his arrival in England in 1992 (after having originally come to England for a trial with Sheffield Wednesday), where he helped them win the old First Division championship that season (1991/92). In the following season, he was transferred to Manchester United for a relatively small fee of 1.2 million pounds (1.86 million US Dollars).
Cantona is infamous for an incident that occurred in January 1995. In an away match against Crystal Palace, Cantona launched a 'kung-fu' style kick against an abusive Crystal Palace fan after being sent off by the referee. At a press conference called later, Cantona uttered 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 October.
After the 1996/97 season, Cantona announced his retirement from football, at the age of 30. Shortly after retiring he became captain of the French National Beach Football team.
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.
Since retiring from professional football Cantona has appeared in numerous European television adverts, especially for Nike. In a worldwide advertising campaign during the run-up to the 2002 World Cup, he starred as the organiser of "underground" games between football superstars like Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Luis Figo. In an earlier UK Nike advert, he appeared playing "amateur" football on Hackney Marshes with other stars including Ian Wright, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler. He also starred in an Irish euromillions ad.
For a full list of films Eric has appeared in see:
- Le bonheur est dans le pré - 1995 - Lionel
- Eleven Men Against Eleven - 1995 - Player (uncredited)
- Elizabeth - 1998 - Monsieur le Foix
- Mookie - 1998 - Antoine Capella
- Les enfants du marais - 1999 - Jo Sardi
- La grande vie! - 2001 - Joueur de pétanque 2
- L'Outremangeur - 2003 - Séléna
- Rob Wightman: FourFourTwo Great Footballers: Eric Cantona, Freeman. ISBN 0753506629
- Eric Cantona: Cantona on Cantona: reflections of a sporting legend ISBN 0233990453
- Michael Robinson: La Philosophie De Cantona ISBN 1898051399
- Kit Bryson (Editor): The Meaning of Cantona: Meditations on Life, Art and Perfectly Weighted Balls ISBN 1851589503
- Biographical and fan sites