Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona (born 24 May 1966) is a French former footballer of the late 1980s and 1990s, turned actor. He
ended his professional football career at Manchester United where he won
four Premier League titles in five years, including two League and FA Cup
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 and in English football. In 2001, he was voted
their player of the century, and to this day United fans refer to him as
"King Eric". He is the current manager of the France beach soccer team.
Following his retirement from football, he took up a career in cinema and
had a cameo role in the 1998 film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett.
Despite claims that he was born in Marseille, Cantona was actually born
in Paris. However, his
parents – Albert and Eleonore – soon moved back to the family home in the
Caillols area of Marseille, between the city's 11th and 12th
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Cantona's first football club was Auxerre, where he spent two years in
the youth team before making his debut on 5 November 1983, in a 4–0 league
victory over Nancy.
The whole of 1984 saw Cantona's footballing career put on hold as he
carried out his national service. After his discharge he was loaned out to
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. However, the first
of his disciplinary problems had already begun when in 1987 he was fined for
punching team mate Bruno Martini in the face
The following year, Cantona was again in trouble because of a dangerous
tackle on Nantes player, Michel Der Zakarian, resulting in a three game
suspension, later reduced to two, as his club Auxerre threatened to make the
player unavailable for selection in the national team. He was part of the
French under-21 side that won the 1988 U21 European Championship and shortly
after that success, he transferred to Marseille, the club he supported as a
boy, for a French record fee (FF22m). 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 kicked the ball at the crowd and
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 one year after 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 though banned
him for ten days. Cantona
was instrumental as the team went on to win the French Cup and his form
persuaded Marseille to take him back.
Back at Marseille, Cantona initially played well under coach Gerard Gili
and his successor 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
one 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 three
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 because he admired his talent. On the
advice of Gérard Houllier as well as his psychoanalyst, he moved to England
to restart his career, "He [my psychoanalyst] advised me not to sign for
Marseilles and recommended that I should go to England."
On 6 November 1991, after Liverpool's 3–0 victory over Auxerre in a UEFA
Cup Second Round second leg tie at Anfield, Liverpool manager Graeme Souness
was met by Frenchman Michel Platini at the end of the game, who told him
that Cantona would like to play for Liverpool. Souness thanked Platini, but
declined the offer, citing dressing room harmony as his reason. In January
1992, Cantona came to England for a two-week trial with Sheffield Wednesday,
managed by Trevor Francis. When offered an extension to the trial, he
instead joined Yorkshire rivals Leeds United, where he was part of the team
that won the final First Division championship before it was replaced by the
Premier League as the top division in English football. However, Cantona was
mainly used as a substitute in the Leeds side and managed only three goals.
He scored a hat-trick in the Charity Shield 4–3 win over Liverpool in 1992,
and followed that with another in a 5-0 league win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Cantona left Leeds for Manchester United for £1.2 million in November
1992. Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson had telephoned Manchester United
chairman Martin Edwards to enquire about the availability of Denis Irwin.
Edwards was in a meeting with United manager Alex Ferguson at the time, and
both men agreed that Irwin was not for sale. Ferguson had identified that
his team was in need of a striker, having recently made bids for David Hirst,
Matt Le Tissier and Brian Deane, and instructed his chairman to ask
Wilkinson whether Cantona was for sale. Within a few days, the deal was
Cantona signed for United on 26 November 1992, and made his first
appearance in a friendly match against Benfica in Lisbon to mark Eusébio's
50th birthday. He made his competitive debut as a second half substitute
against Manchester City at Old Trafford on 6 December 1992. United won 2-1,
though Cantona made little impact that day.
United's season had been disappointing up to Cantona's signing. They had
had problems scoring goals. Brian McClair and Mark Hughes were off form, and
summer signing Dion Dublin had broken his leg early in the season, ruling
him out of action for six months. However, Cantona quickly settled into the
team, not only scoring goals but also creating chances for the other
players. His first United goal came in a 1-1 draw against Chelsea at
Stamford Bridge on 19 December 1992. It was against Tottenham Hotspur on 9
January 1993, that Cantona really showed his class, scoring one and having a
hand in the other goals in a 4-1 victory. However, controversy was never far
away, and on his return to Elland Road to play Leeds a few weeks later, he
spat at a fan and was fined £1,000 by the FA.
In Cantona's first two seasons at Old Trafford, United went on an amazing
run, winning the inaugural Premier League in 1993. By winning that title,
Cantona became the only player ever to win back-to-back titles with
different clubs. They retained the Premier League and Cantona's two
penalties helped them to a 4-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup Final. He also
collected a runners-up medal in the Football League Cup, in which United
reached the final only to lose 3-1 to Aston Villa.
Cantona was voted PFA Player of the Year in 1994, on the same night that
United forced a replay with a 1-1 draw with Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup
semi-final. However, his serious disciplinary problem had not dissipated,
being sent off a record 4 times in two seasons - two of these dismissals
came in successive games in March 1994, first in a 2-2 draw at Swindon Town
and then three days later in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal at Highbury. This saw
him suspended for five matches, including the FA Cup semi-final draw with
In the following season, Cantona became infamous for an incident that
occurred on 25 January 1995. In an away match against Crystal Palace,
Cantona was sent off by the referee for a vengeful kick on Palace defender
Richard Shaw after Shaw had pulled his shirt. As he was being escorted from
the pitch by United kit man Norman Davies, Cantona broke away and launched a
'kung-fu' style kick into the crowd, directed at Crystal Palace fan Matthew
Simmons, followed by a series of punches.
The infamous photograph of the moment Cantona's foot connected with Simmons,
was used with permission on the front cover of Ash's single "Kung Fu". The
front cover alone generated publicity in the British rock press, which
helped the band get a hit single when it charted at number 57 in the same
Simmons was later tried for threatening language and behaviour. He
received a seven-day prison sentence, but only served 24 hours of his
sentence. It was
also revealed that Simmons had previous criminal convictions, including an
attempted violent robbery in 1992 where he had attacked a Sri Lankan petrol
station worker with a spanner in Croydon, and that he had attended a
National Front rally a short time before the Selhurst Park incident.
His conviction and sentence also resulted in a £500 fine as well as a
one-year ban from all football grounds in England and Wales.
At a press conference called later, Cantona gave what is perhaps his most
famous quotation. Referring to how journalists would constantly monitor his
behaviour, Cantona 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. Thank you very much."
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 two-week prison sentence for assault. In
accordance with the Football Association's wishes, Manchester United
suspended Cantona for the remaining four months of the 1994–95 season, but
the suspension was later increased by the FA to a nine-month ban from world
football, in conjunction with a further fine of £10,000. The FA Chief
Executive Graham Kelly described his attack as "a stain on our game" that
brought shame on football .
Manchester United also fined Cantona two weeks wages
 and he was stripped of
the French captaincy; his club eventually lost the Premier League title to
Blackburn. In 2007 he said, "I have a lot of good moments, but the one I
prefer is when I kicked the hooligan."
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. There were also fears from various individuals that he might
never be able to cope in English football again, as the torment and
provocation from players and particularly supporters of rival teams might
prove too much for him.
In his comeback game, Cantona set up a goal for Nicky Butt inside 2
minutes, and then scored a penalty after Ryan Giggs 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 title having trailed
Newcastle United by 10 points at Christmas. There was a spate of important
1-0 wins for United, with Cantona the goal scorer, but a 3-0 victory against
Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium confirmed United's role as league
champions for the third time in four seasons. Fittingly, it was the same 1-0
scoreline, and the same scorer, in that year's FA Cup Final against
Liverpool, with Cantona becoming the first foreign player to lift the FA Cup
as captain (regular captain Steve Bruce missed the game due to doubts about
his fitness). The strike of that match happened with 5 minutes remaining and
was perhaps the most famous goal of Cantona's career. A corner from the left
side troubled Liverpool keeper David James who attempted to fist the ball
out of the box. Instead, the ball was deflected down the middle to the top
of the box. Cantona, who had backed away when the corner was sent, lined up
and took an extremely athletic twisting volley with his right foot firing
the ball through a sea of defenders into the net. The game was won. 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 was confirmed as United's captain for the 1996-97 season
following the departure of Steve Bruce to Birmingham City.
Cantona galvanised the United team to greater success with the likes of
Ryan Giggs and youngsters David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary
Neville emerging under his influence. As United retained the league in the
1996-97 season, Cantona had won four league titles in five years with United
(six in seven years including those won with Marseille and Leeds United),
the exception being the 1994-95 season which he had missed the second half
of through suspension. At the end of an admittedly lacklustre season by his
standards, which was fuelled by United's elimination at the hands of
Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, he
announced that he was retiring from football at the age of 30 which came as
a surprise, and was met with great dismay by United fans. His final
competitive game came against West Ham on 11 May 1997, and his final
appearance before retiring was five days later on 16 May in a testimonial
for David Busst (the player whose career had been ended by an injury
suffered against United the previous year) against Coventry City at
Highfield Road, in which Cantona scored twice in a 2-2 draw. Cantona scored
a total of 64 league goals for Manchester United, 11 in domestic cup
competitions, and 5 in The Champions League, bringing his tally to 80 goals
in less than 5 years.
In his 1999 autobiography Managing My Life, Alex Ferguson claimed
that Cantona had informed him of his decision to retire from playing within
24 hours of United's European exit, though of course the decision was not
made public for almost a month afterwards. During that time, there had been
speculation about his future at United, including talk of a move to Real
Zaragoza of Spain.
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 opposed 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. This came as a disappointment to the many United
fans who voted him as their choice for United's next manager in survey over
the summer of 2000.
However, in July 2008 it was reported by the Sunday Express that
Cantona had been having second thoughts, with a close friend of Cantona's
revealing: “Eric does fancy the idea of helping out with the coaching at a
club like Manchester United... He has been enjoying himself appearing in and
directing films and being involved in beach soccer but has always wanted to
help produce a team in his style and knows that Sir Alex Ferguson would
Despite his vow that he would never return while the Glazers remained in
control of Manchester United it appears that he has mellowed over that
French national team
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 referred
to Michel as a "bag of shit" 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
Under Houllier, France then failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in
the U.S. after losing the final game 2-1 at home to Bulgaria when a draw
would have sufficed. David Ginola gave away possession 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 and
appointed Cantona as captain. Cantona remained 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 another star, Zinédine Zidane, as Jacquet had
revamped the squad with some new blood and built it around Zidane. With the
inclusion of young new talents such as Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and
David Trézéguet, Cantona, Papin and Ginola lost their place were never again
selected for the French team, thus missing Euro 96. Though there was
criticism about Cantona's omission, as he was playing his best football in
the 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. The
decision was vindicated as Les Bleus subsequently won the World Cup in 1998.
To this day, Cantona still harbours resentment for the people at the head
of his national team but also admiration for his adopted football country;
at Euro 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup, he supported England and not
In 1998, the Football League, as part of its centenary season
celebrations, included Cantona on its list of 100 League Legends. Cantona's
achievements in the English League were further marked in 2002 when he was
made an Inaugural Inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame.
Cinema and TV
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 France, he had a role as the
French ambassador in the movie Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett in
1998. He recently guest-starred as a mysterious bar-room philosopher in
independent British film Jack Says, released to DVD in September
2008. He co-starred as director Thierry Grimandi in French Film, and is
co-producer and lead actor in Ken Loach's Palme D'or nominated film
Looking for Eric - both released in 2009.
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 KO") between
football players like Thierry Henry, Hidetoshi Nakata, Francesco Totti,
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, nearly ten years after his
retirement, 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. He
now sports a beard.
In 2007, he performed a spoken-word role on the album La mécanique du
cœur, by French rock band Dionysos. In 2009, he featured in an British
television advert for a new model of the Renault Laguna.
Shortly after his departure from Manchester United, Cantona became
captain of the French National Beach Football team. Cantona has continued
his interest in beach football 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 in
Rio de Janeiro. He also coached the 2006 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup French
National Team, which finished in third place. In the 2007 World Cup Cantona
was again successful, taking France to fourth place. The Cup came to France
for the first time in the 2008 World Cup, however Cantona was unable to make
the top four after losing to Italy in the quarter finals.
- Ligue 1 (2): 1989, 1991
- Coupe de France (1): 1989
- Coupe de France (1): 1990
- Football League First Division (1): 1991-92
- Charity Shield (1): 1992
- Premier League (4): 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97
- FA Cup (2): 1993-94, 1995-96
- Charity Shield (3): 1993, 1994, 1996
- PFA Players' Player of the Year
- FWA Footballer of the Year
Cantona was married to Isabelle Ferrer, they have two children; Raphael
(born 1988) and Josephine (born 1995).
He is now married to actress Rachida Brakni.
His brother Joël Cantona was also a professional footballer who played
for Olympique de Marseille, Újpesti TE and Stockport County. Like Cantona,
Joël has retired from football and is now an actor.
His cousin, Sacha Opinel, currently plays for Ebbsfleet United F.C. in
the Blue Square Premier (highest division of English non-league football).
- 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! (English title: The High Life) - 2001 -
Joueur de pétanque 2
- L'Outremangeur (English title: The Over-Eater) - 2003
- Les Clefs de bagnole (English title: The Car Keys) -
- La vie est à nous - 2005
- Une belle histoire - 2005
- Lisa et le pilote d'avion - 2007
- Le Deuxième souffle (English title: Second Wind) -
- Jack Says - 2008
- French Film - 2009
- Looking for Eric - 2009
Eric Cantona is one of the greatest ever in the history of
Man. United's Football Club.
eric the king is the best