Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona
Cantona in 2011
Born Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona[1]
(1966-05-24) 24 May 1966[1]
Marseille, France
Occupation Actor, former professional footballer
Height 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Isabelle Ferrer
(m. 1987; div. 2003)

Rachida Brakni (m. 2007)
Children 4
Parent(s) Albert Cantona
Éléonore Raurich
Association football career
Playing position Forward
Youth career
1980–1981 SO Les Caillols
1981–1983 Auxerre
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1983–1988 Auxerre 82 (23)
1985–1986Martigues (loan) 15 (4)
1988–1991 Marseille 40 (13)
1989Bordeaux (loan) 11 (6)
1989–1990Montpellier (loan) 33 (10)
1991 Nîmes 17 (2)
1992 Leeds United 28 (9)
1992–1997 Manchester United 143 (64)
Total 369 (131)
National team
1987–1995 France 45 (20)
1997–2006 France (beach)
Teams managed
1997–2011 France (beach)
2011–2012 New York Cosmos (Director of Soccer)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona (French pronunciation: [eʁik kɑ̃tona]; born 24 May 1966) is a French actor and former international footballer for the French national team. He played for Auxerre, Martigues, Marseille, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Nîmes and Leeds United before ending his career at Manchester United where he won four Premier League titles in five years and two League and FA Cup Doubles. He won the league championship in seven of his last eight full seasons as a professional.

A large, physically strong, hard-working, and tenacious forward, who combined technical skill and creativity with power and goalscoring ability, Cantona is often regarded as having played a key role in the revival of Manchester United as a footballing force in the 1990s and having an iconic status at the club.[2] He wore the number 7 shirt at Manchester United with his trademark upturned collar.[3] Cantona is affectionately nicknamed by Manchester United fans as "King Eric", and was voted as Manchester United's greatest ever player by Inside United magazine.[4] Set against his achievements in football was a poor disciplinary record for much of his career, including a 1995 conviction for an assault on a fan.[5] His disciplinary record, however, was much improved after he returned from the eight-month suspension.

Following his retirement from football in 1997, he took up a career in cinema and had a role in the 1998 film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett, the 2008 film French Film, and the 2009 film Looking for Eric. In 2010, he debuted as a stage actor in Face au Paradis, a French play directed by his wife, Rachida Brakni.[6] Cantona also took an interest in the sport of beach soccer, and as player-manager of the French national team, he won the 2005 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.[7]

An inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002, the museum states: "The enigmatic Frenchman was one of the Premier League's most controversial players ever".[3]

Early life

Cantona was born in Marseille, to Albert Cantona, a nurse and a painter, and Éléonore Raurich, a dressmaker.[8][9][10] The family home was a cave in one of the hills in the Les Caillols area of Marseille, between the city's 11th and 12th arrondissements, and it was rumoured to have been used as a look-out post for the German Army, towards the end of the Second World War. The site was chosen in the mid-1950s by Cantona's paternal grandmother, Lucienne, whose husband, Joseph, was a stonemason. By the time Cantona was born in 1966, the hillside cave had become little more than a room in the family's house, which was now up to a liveable standard. Cantona has two brothers, Jean-Marie, who is four years older; and Joël, who is 17 months younger.

Cantona came from a family of immigrants: his paternal grandfather, Joseph, had emigrated to Marseille from Sardinia,[11] while his mother was from Barcelona.[12] Pere Raurich, Cantona's maternal grandfather, was fighting the armies of General Franco in the Spanish Civil War in 1938 when he suffered a serious injury to his liver, and he had to retreat to France for medical treatment with his wife Paquita.[13] The Raurichs stayed in Saint-Priest, Ardèche, before settling in Marseille.[13]

Club career

Early career

Cantona began his football career with SO Caillolais, his local team and one that had produced such talent as Roger Jouve and had players such as Jean Tigana and Christophe Galtier within its ranks. Originally, Cantona began to follow in his father's footsteps and often played as a goalkeeper, but his creative instincts began to take over and he would play up front more and more often. In his time with SO Caillolais, Cantona played in more than 200 matches.


Cantona's first professional 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.[14]

In 1984 his footballing career was put on hold as he carried out his national service. After his discharge he was loaned out to Martigues[14] in the French Second Division before 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 when barely in his twenties. However, his disciplinary problems began in 1987 when he was fined for punching teammate Bruno Martini in the face.[14]

The following year, Cantona was again in trouble because of a dangerous kung-fu tackle on Nantes player Michel Der Zakarian, resulting in a three-month suspension,[14] this was later reduced to a two-month suspension 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, scoring a hat-trick in a quarter-final against the England under-21 side in the process,[15] and shortly after he transferred to Marseille for a French record fee (FF22m). Cantona had grown up as a Marseille fan.

In January 1989 during a friendly game against Torpedo Moscow he kicked the ball at the crowd, then ripped off and threw away his shirt 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 Henri Michel on TV.[16]

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 teammate 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 teammates such as Laurent Blanc and Carlos Valderrama, the club retained his services, although they banned him from the ground for ten days.[17] 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; Cantona was continually at odds with Goethals and 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 two months, and Cantona subsequently announced his retirement from football on 16 December 1991.[18]

The French national team coach Michel Platini was a fan of Cantona, and persuaded him to make a comeback. 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 Marseille and recommended that I should go to England."[19]


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 was available for sale to Liverpool. Souness thanked Platini, but declined the offer, citing dressing room harmony as his reason. He also had a strong selection of forwards available to him at the time, including Ian Rush, John Barnes, Dean Saunders and Ronny Rosenthal, and would be joined by Paul Stewart and Nigel Clough in the following years.

After being turned down by Liverpool, Cantona was given a trial at Sheffield Wednesday when Wednesday manager Trevor Francis was approached by Platini and Francis' former agent, Dennis Roach. In a 2012 interview Francis explained that he had agreed to take Cantona on as a favour to Roach and Platini, who he knew from his time playing in Italy, and that it was intended as an opportunity for Cantona to put himself in the "shop window": Wednesday had only recently been promoted back to the top flight, with most of the squad still being on Second Division-level wages, and the club could not afford to sign him. Cantona spent two days with Wednesday, training and playing in an indoor tournament at Sheffield Arena.[20]

Leeds United

He joined Yorkshire rivals Leeds United, making his debut in a 2–0 loss at Oldham Athletic on 8 February 1992.[21] At Leeds, he was part of the team that won the final Football League First Division championship before it was replaced by the Premier League as the top division in English football. His transfer from Nîmes cost Leeds £900,000.[22]

Cantona made 15 appearances for Leeds in their championship-winning season and despite only scoring three goals he was instrumental in their title success, primarily with assists for leading goalscorer Lee Chapman. He scored a hat-trick in the 4–3 victory over Liverpool in the 1992 FA Charity Shield that August, and followed that with another in a 5–0 league win over Tottenham Hotspur – the first ever in the newly branded Premier League.[23] His hat-trick in the Charity Shield places him among the small elite group of players to have scored three or more goals in games at Wembley Stadium.

Cantona left Leeds for Manchester United for £1.2 million on 26 November 1992. Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby had telephoned Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards to enquire about the availability of Denis Irwin. Edwards was in a meeting with Manchester 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 unsuccessful bids for David Hirst, Matt Le Tissier and Brian Deane, and instructed his chairman to ask Wilkinson whether Cantona was for sale. Fotherby had to consult with the manager Howard Wilkinson, but within a few days the deal was complete.[24]

Manchester United

1992–93 season
"He [Cantona] illuminated Old Trafford. The place was a frenzy every time he touched the ball."

—Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.[3]

Cantona made his first appearance for Manchester United in a friendly match against Benfica in Lisbon to mark Eusébio's 50th birthday, wearing the number 10 shirt. He made his competitive debut as a second-half substitute against Manchester City at Old Trafford on 6 December 1992, wearing the number 12 shirt. Manchester United won 2–1, though Cantona made little impact that day. He had arrived too late to register to play in Manchester United's 1–0 win at Arsenal on 28 November, but was in the crowd at Highbury as his new team secured a vital win.

Manchester United's season had been disappointing up to Cantona's signing. They were falling behind the likes of big spending Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers in the race for the first Premier League title, as well as surprise challengers including Norwich City and Queen's Park Rangers. Goalscoring had been a problem since the halfway point of the previous season – when it had cost them the league title as they suffered defeats or were held to draws at the hands of teams they had been expected to beat.

Alex Ferguson had first tried to sign Alan Shearer from Southampton during the 1992 close season, but lost out to Blackburn Rovers. He then spent £1 million on Dion Dublin, who suffered a broken leg a few games into the season and was out of action for six months. A £3 million bid for Sheffield Wednesday striker David Hirst was turned down, and by 7 November, Manchester United were 10th in the Premier League.

However, Cantona quickly settled into the team, slotting in alongside Mark Hughes, while Brian McClair was switched to midfield. Cantona contributed greatly to a quick upturn in the team's fortunes, not only scoring goals but also creating chances for the other players. His first Manchester United goal came in a 1–1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on 19 December 1992, and his second came on Boxing Day in a 3–3 draw against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough where they claimed a point after being 3–0 down at half time. 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. Manchester United only lost twice in the league after Cantona's arrival, and finished the season as champions for the first time in 26 years.[16][25]

In Cantona's first season at Old Trafford, Manchester United won the inaugural Premier League by 10 points – winning the top division title for the first time since 1967. In doing so, he became the first player to win consecutive English top division titles with different clubs. He had won a domestic league title with different clubs for three successive seasons, having helped Marseille win the French league title in 1991.

1993–94 season
"Collar turned up, back straight, chest stuck out, Eric glided into the arena as if he owned the place."

—Former Manchester United teammate Roy Keane.[3]

Manchester United 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, which the team lost 3–1 to Aston Villa. He was also voted PFA Player of the Year for that season, and finished as Manchester United's top scorer with 25 goals in all competitions. However, the season was not without its moments of controversy; Cantona was sent off as the team exited the Champions League against Galatasaray, and he was also dismissed in successive Premier League games in March 1994, firstly against Swindon Town and then against Arsenal. The two successive red cards saw Cantona banned for five matches, including a FA Cup semi-final clash with Oldham Athletic, which Manchester United drew 1–1. Cantona was available for the replay and helped them win 4–1.[14]

1993–94 was the first season of squad numbers in the Premier League. Cantona was issued with the number 7 shirt, a squad number he kept for the rest of his Manchester United career, and which already had iconic status, having previously been worn by club legends including George Best and Bryan Robson.[26] However, squad numbers were not set for the UEFA Champions League matches and Cantona wore the number 9 shirt in the four fixtures home and away against Kispest Honvéd and Galatasaray.

In March 1994, Cantona was sent off in successive league matches against Swindon Town and Arsenal, which resulted in him being banned for five matches.[27]

On 19 December 1993, he scored two against Aston Villa (the previous season's runners-up) in a 3–1 victory that put Manchester United 13 points clear at the top of the league. They extended their lead to 16 points soon after, and eventually finished eight points ahead of runners-up Blackburn. Cantona was United's top scorer with 26 goals in all competitions.[28]

1994–95 season, 'kung-fu' incident, ban from football

In the 1994–95 season, Manchester United looked to win a third successive league title, and for the first half of the season things went smoothly enough for player and club. The season began with a 2–0 Wembley win over Blackburn Rovers in the Charity Shield, in which Cantona scored a penalty.[29] Cantona frequently scored for Manchester United, who put intense pressure on a Blackburn Rovers side that led the table for much of the season, particularly with a 4–2 win at Ewood Park in late October, in which Cantona was on the scoresheet. He was also on the scoresheet the following month in a memorable 5–0 derby win over Manchester City, and on 22 January he scored the winning goal in a 1–0 home win over Blackburn that made the title race even tighter and brought Cantona's tally of league goals for that season to 12. He had also scored a further goal in an FA Cup third round win at Sheffield United, and a second double seemed like a real possibility. The arrival of striker Andy Cole from Newcastle United on 10 January further boosted these hopes, even though Cole was cup-tied for FA Cup fixtures.[30]

However, on 25 January 1995 he was involved in an incident that attracted headlines and controversy worldwide. In an away match against Crystal Palace, Cantona was sent off by the referee for a kick on Palace defender Richard Shaw after Shaw had pulled his shirt. As he was walking towards the tunnel, Cantona launched a 'kung-fu' style kick into the crowd, directed at Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons, a fan who had run down 11 rows of stairs to confront and shout abuse at Cantona. Simmons was alleged to have used the words "Fuck off back to France, you French motherfucker". Cantona followed the kick with a series of punches. A lengthy ban from the game was regarded as inevitable, with some critics calling for Cantona to be deported and never allowed to play football in England again, while others called for him to be banned from football for life.[31][32][33]

As well as the inevitable disciplinary action from his club and the Football Association, Cantona was also faced with a criminal charge of assault, which he admitted to on 23 March, resulting in a two-week prison sentence, although he was freed on bail pending an appeal.[34] This was overturned in the appeal court a week later and instead he was sentenced to 120 hours of community service, which was spent coaching children at Manchester United's training ground.[35] At a press conference called later, Cantona said, in a slow and deliberate manner:

Cantona then got up from his seat and abruptly left, leaving behind him a packed media room surprised and baffled.

In accordance with The Football Association's wishes, Manchester United's initial action was to fine Cantona £20,000 and confirm that he would not play for the first team for the rest of the season,[37][38] which ruled him out of first-team action as Manchester United were still in the hunt for a second double. He was also stripped of the captaincy of the French national football team by national coach Aime Jacquet.

The Football Association then increased the ban to eight months (up to and including 30 September 1995) and fined him a further £10,000.[39] The FA Chief Executive Graham Kelly described his attack as "a stain on our game" that brought shame on football. FIFA then confirmed the suspension as worldwide, meaning that Cantona could not escape the ban by being transferred or loaned to a foreign club.[40]

Cantona would never play for the French national team again.[41] His club eventually lost the Premier League title to Blackburn Rovers.

There had been media speculation that Cantona would leave Manchester United to play for a foreign club when his suspension finished, and many observers felt that Cantona would not be able to cope with the inevitable goading from rival players and supporters, but Alex Ferguson persuaded him to stay in Manchester, despite interest from Italian club Internazionale[42] (who had managed to lure his teammate Paul Ince to Italy that year).

Even after signing his new contract, Cantona was frustrated by the terms of his ban (which did not even allow him to play in friendly matches behind closed doors), and on 8 August, he handed in a request for his contract to be terminated, as he no longer wanted to play football in England. This came after Manchester United had been censured by the FA for fielding Cantona in a match against another club at the club's training ground, which was defined as a friendly match despite the club organising the match as being within the context of training – as his suspension allowed him to play in this type of match only. The request was turned down and two days later, following a meeting in Paris with Alex Ferguson, he declared that he would remain at the club.

In 2011, Cantona said that the attack on the Crystal Palace supporter was "a great feeling" and a memory he is happy for fans to treasure, but "... it was a mistake".[43]

1995–96 season

In his comeback game against Liverpool on 1 October 1995, Cantona set up a goal for Nicky Butt two minutes into the game, and then scored a penalty after Ryan Giggs was fouled to secure a point for Manchester United in a 2–2 home draw against their great rivals. However, eight months without competitive football had taken its toll and Cantona struggled for form prior to Christmas – by 24 December, the gap between Manchester United and league leaders Newcastle United had increased to 10 points.

On 3 February 1996, Cantona returned to Selhurst Park for the first time since the flying kick.[44] He scored twice as his side beat Wimbledon 4–2.[45] A goal by Cantona in Manchester United's league clash with West Ham United at Upton Park triggered a 10-match winning run in the league. Over the second half of the season, several more games ended in 1–0 wins with Cantona scoring the only goal, though it was actually a draw (in which Cantona equalised) with Queen's Park Rangers on 9 March which saw Manchester United overtake Newcastle on goal difference for the first time. They stayed there for the rest of the season, and on the final day of the season they beat Middlesbrough 3–0 at the Riverside Stadium to win their third title in four seasons.

Manchester United also reached the 1996 FA Cup Final against Liverpool, and with regular captain Steve Bruce struggling for fitness, Cantona was named as captain. He then scored the only goal of the game in the 86th minute and became the first player from outside Britain and Ireland to lift the FA Cup as captain; Manchester United became the first team to win "the double" twice.

1996–97 season

Cantona was confirmed as Manchester United's captain for the 1996–97 season following the departure of Steve Bruce to Birmingham City.

Manchester United retained the league in the 1996–97 season; Cantona had won four league titles in five years with the team, and 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 the season he announced that he was retiring from football at the age of 30.[46] 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 (whose career had been ended by an injury suffered against Manchester United the previous year) against Coventry City at Highfield Road.

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 five years.

After leaving

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. Later in 1998, Cantona organised a match of Manchester United players against other players from around the world in what was originally designed to be a memorial for the victims of the Munich Air Disaster in 1958 and their families, but which was merged with a testimonial for Cantona himself.[47]

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 Manchester United's Champions League semi-final defeat to Borussia Dortmund, though the decision was not made public for almost a month afterwards. During that time, there had been speculation about his future at Manchester United, including talk of a move to Real Zaragoza of Spain.

Returning to Britain in 2003 to pick up the Overseas Player of the Decade Award at the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards, Cantona said of his premature retirement, "When you quit football it is not easy, your life becomes difficult. I should know because sometimes I feel I quit too young. I loved the game but I no longer had the passion to go to bed early, not to go out with my friends, not to drink, and not to do a lot of other things, the things I like in life."[48]

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."[49]

He was interviewed in the Number 7s issue of Manchester United's official magazine, United, 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 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 Manchester United fans who voted him as their choice for the team's next manager in a survey in the middle of 2000. At this stage, it had been expected that manager Sir Alex Ferguson would retire in 2002, but the manager later had a change of heart and would go on to manage until his retirement in 2013.[50]

In July 2008, it was reported by the Sunday Express that Cantona had been having second thoughts, with a "close friend" of Cantona's allegedly 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 encourage him".[51]

In March 2014, Cantona was arrested and cautioned for an act of common assault on Regent's Park Road in Camden, North London. The victim did not require medical attention.[52]

International career

Cantona was given his full international debut against West Germany in August 1987 by 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.[53] However, Michel was sacked shortly after that having failed to qualify for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

The new coach was Michel Platini and one of his first acts was to recall Cantona. Platini stated that whilst he was coach, Cantona would be selected for France as long as he was playing competitive top-class football; it was Platini who had initiated Cantona's move to England to restart his career. France qualified for Euro 1992 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 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. 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 Zinédine Zidane, as Jacquet had revamped the squad with some new players. Cantona, Papin and David Ginola lost their places in the squad and were never selected for the French team again, thus missing Euro 96. Though there was media criticism about Cantona's omission, as he was playing his best football in the Premier League, Jacquet 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.[54] In a 2015 interview with French radio network France Info, Cantona stated that had he still been involved with the national side, he would have extended his career to feature in the 1998 FIFA World Cup, held in Cantona's home nation.[55]

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 France.[56]

Mass media

In 1992, Cantona endorsed two video games, Eric Cantona Football Challenge and Eric Cantona Football Challenge: Goal! 2.

He focused his later career mostly as an actor in French cinema, having had his first role as a rugby player in Le bonheur est dans le pré, shot during his 1995 suspension from football. In the late 1990s, he accepted a role as a French ambassador in the English film Elizabeth (1998). In 2002, he directed a short film, Apporte-moi ton amour. He guest-starred as a mysterious barroom philosopher in independent British film Jack Says, released to DVD in September 2008. He co-starred as director Thierry Grimandi in French Film (2009), and is co-producer and a lead actor in Ken Loach's Palme D'or nominated film Looking for Eric (2009). He also stars as The Corsican in the Danish western The Salvation, which premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival on 17 May 2014.[57]

Cantona has frequently appeared in commercials for the American sportswear company Nike.[58][59] In 1996, he was the central figure in a Nike commercial titled "Good vs Evil" in a gladiatorial game set in a Roman amphitheatre. Appearing alongside football players from around the world, including Ronaldo, Paolo Maldini, Luís Figo, Patrick Kluivert and Jorge Campos, they defend "the beautiful game" against a team of demonic warriors, which ends with Cantona receiving the ball from Ronaldo, pulling up his shirt collar as was his trademark, and delivering the final line, "Au Revoir", before striking the ball which punches right through the demon goalkeeper.[58] Since his retirement from professional football in 1997, Cantona has continued to appear in Nike commercials.

In a global Nike advertising campaign in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup, Cantona starred as the organiser of "underground" games (branded by Nike as "Scorpion KO") in a commercial directed by Terry Gilliam, which takes place between football players such as Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho, Francesco Totti, Roberto Carlos and Japanese star Hidetoshi Nakata.[60][61] In an earlier UK Nike commercial, he appeared playing "amateur" football on Hackney Marshes with other stars including Ian Wright, David Seaman, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler.[62] In a Nike campaign in the advance of the 2006 World Cup, Cantona appears as the lead spokesman for the Joga Bonito organization, an association attempting to eliminate acting and fake play from football.[63] He also starred in a Eurostar commercial in 1996,[64] and an Irish EuroMillions advertisement in 2004.[65] In 2009, he featured in a British television advertisement for a new model of the Renault Laguna.[66]

In 2007, he performed a spoken-word role on the album La mécanique du cœur, by French rock band Dionysos.

Beach soccer

Shortly after his departure from Manchester United in 1997, Cantona became captain of the French national beach soccer team, gaining an interest in the sport through his brother Joel who was already a part of the French national side travelling the world to play matches.[67] Cantona continued his interest in beach soccer games in southern Asia and at the Inaugural Kronenbourg Beach Soccer Cup in 2002, in the city of Brighton, England.

As a recognisable figure, Cantona was key to beach soccer's growth during the sports early years, being a magnet for drawing in fans to beach soccer events,[68] and also helping to promote the sport, saying in 2002, "Physically it is difficult, technically it is difficult, and tactically it's difficult too. We must work very hard, and train regularly together. Beach Soccer has got everything needed to be a great sport."[69]

He found considerable success as he managed and played in the French team which won their first European title at the 2004 Euro Beach Soccer League and the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005 in Rio de Janeiro, France's first and only World title to date. This was Cantona's final year as a player. However he continued to coach the French national team at the 2006 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, which finished in third place. In 2007 Cantona enjoyed another successful year as manager, taking France to fourth place in the World Cup and narrowly missing out on a second European title, finishing runners-up to Portugal after a 7–6 loss in the final of the 2007 Euro Beach Soccer League. The World Cup was held in France for the first time in 2008; however, Cantona was unable to make the top four after losing to Italy in the quarter finals.

After failing, as manager, to qualify France to the World Cup for the first time in 2009, Cantona's demise as head coach was sealed in 2010 as not only did France fail in qualification for the upcoming World Cup again, but Cantona also lead the national team to relegation from the top division of the Euro Beach Soccer League down to Division B. These series of disappointments lead to Cantona resigning as manager of France in 2011[70] after almost 15 years involved in the team.

Return to football in 2011

The New York Cosmos announced the Frenchman's return to football as their Director of Soccer on 18 January 2011. On arrival, Cantona described his role to the press as to help Cosmos "regain the number one position in the United States and then... to become one of the best clubs in the world over the coming years."[71] Cantona was later fired by the club after a confrontation with a photographer, and in May 2015 he sued the Cosmos for nearly $1 million in back pay and a promised 4% equity share.[72][73] The Cosmos rejected his claims, insisting that his role as Director of Soccer was largely ceremonial, and that Cantona's true job was as "a promoter and brand ambassador".[74][75] The two parties later agreed to dismiss the lawsuit, though terms of a settlement were not disclosed.[74]

Political views

Cantona called for a social revolution against the banks and encouraged customers of the major retail banks to withdraw their money on 7 December 2010 in protest at the global financial crisis. This proposal then became the base for an online campaign calling for a bank run.[76]

In January 2012, Cantona began trying to gather the 500 signatures from elected officials necessary for a bid for the French presidential election, in order to draw support for the homeless charity and campaign group Emmaus.[77]

In June 2012, he signed a petition for the release of Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak: imprisoned without conviction by Israel in July 2009 and finally released on 10 July 2012.[78]


Cantona was married to Isabelle Ferrer from 1987 to 2003, they have two children; Raphael (born 1988) and Josephine (born 1995). He married actress Rachida Brakni in 2007, they also have two children; Émir (born 2009) and Selma (born 2013).[79]

Cantona's brother, Joël, was also a professional footballer who played for Marseille, Újpesti TE and Stockport County. Like Eric, Joël retired from football at a young age and is now an actor. His cousin, Sacha Opinel, is also a footballer.

Career statistics



Season Club Division League Cup League Cup Continental Other Total
France League Coupe de France Coupe de la Ligue Europe Other Total
1983–84 AuxerreDivision 1 200020
1984–85 52000052
1985–86 70001080
1985–86 MartiguesDivision 2 15400154
1986–87 AuxerreDivision 1 3613444017
1987–88 32851213910
1988–89 Marseille 22500225
1988–89 Bordeaux 1161000126
1989–90 Montpellier 3310643914
1990–91 Marseille 1880031219
1991–92 Nîmes 17200172
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Charity Shield Total
1991–92 Leeds UnitedFirst Division 1530000153
1992–93Premier League 136001052132011
1992–93 Manchester United 229100000239
1993–94 3418545142104925
1994–95 2112110020112514
1995–96 30147510003819
1996–97 36113000103115015
France total 198581696222069
England total 171731710712174522096
Career total 36913133197127945440165



France national team

International goals

Scores and results list France's goal tally first.
Cantona – goals for France[85]
112 August 1987Olympiastadion, Berlin West Germany1–21–2Friendly
2 16 August 1989Malmö Stadion, Malmö Sweden1–14–2Friendly
411 October 1989Parc des Princes, Paris Scotland2–03–01990 World Cup qualifier
5 24 January 1990Kazma SC Stadium, Kuwait City East Germany1–03–0Friendly
728 February 1990Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier West Germany2–12–1Friendly
8 28 March 1990Népstadion, Budapest Hungary1–03–1Friendly
105 September 1990Laugardalsvöllur, Reykjavík Iceland2–02–1Euro 1992 qualifier
11 20 November 1991Parc des Princes, Paris Iceland2–03–1Euro 1992 qualifier
1314 October 1992Parc des Princes, Paris Austria2–02–01994 World Cup qualifier
1414 November 1992Parc des Princes, Paris Finland2–02–11994 World Cup qualifier
1517 February 1993Ramat Gan Stadium, Ramat Gan Israel1–04–01994 World Cup qualifier
16 28 April 1993Parc des Princes, Paris Sweden1–12–11994 World Cup qualifier
1828 July 1993Stade Michel d'Ornano, Caen Russia2–03–1Friendly
1917 November 1993Parc des Princes, Paris Bulgaria1–01–21994 World Cup qualifier
2026 May 1994Kobe Universiade Memorial Stadium, Kobe Australia1–01–01994 Kirin Cup




Year Title Role Notes
1995 Happiness Is in the Field Lionel
1998 Elizabeth Paul de Foix
1998 Mookie Antoine Capella
1999 The Children of the Marshland Jo Sardi
2001 The High Life Joueur de pétanque 2
2003 The Overeater Séléna
2003 The Car Keys Comedian
2005 It's Our Life! Pierre
2005 Une belle histoire
2006 Lisa et le pilote d'avion Fando
2007 The Second Wind Alban
2008 Jack Says Man At Bar
2008 French Film Thierry Grimandi
2009 Looking for Eric Himself Also executive producer
2010 Together Is Too Much Gérard
2011 Switch Damien Forgeat
2011 De Force Manuel Makarov
2011 Etreinte Eric
2012 Porn in the Hood Football coach
2012 Hip Moves Michel
2013 You and the Night The Stallion
2014 The Salvation The Corsican
2015 The Mad Kings Jacky Chichinet
2016 Marie & the Misfits Antoine
2017 Anka Brazilijanac


Year Title Role Notes
1995 Eleven Men Against Eleven Player Television film
2008 Black Butterfly Jack Television film
2009 La liste Michaël Lombardi Television film



  • Face au paradis (English title: Faced with Paradise) – 2010 (Stage production directed by Rachida Brakni)


  • Auclair, Philippe (2009). Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-74430-1. 
  • Blacker, Terence; Donaldson, William (1997). The Meaning of Cantona: Meditations on Life, Art and Perfectly Weighted Balls. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85158-950-0. 
  • Cantona, Eric (1996). Cantona on Cantona: Reflections of a sporting legend. Andre Deutsch. ISBN 978-0-233-99045-3. 
  • Robinson, Michael (1995). La Philosophie De Cantona. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-1-898051-39-8. 
  • Wightman, Rob (2002). FourFourTwo Great Footballers: Eric Cantona. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0-7535-0662-2. 
  • Worrall, Frank (2008). "Chapter 7: From Caveman to Cavemen". The Magnificent Sevens. London: John Blake Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-84454-609-1. 


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