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Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona ( ; born 24 May 1966) is a French former footballer and actor. He ended his professional footballing career at Manchester United where he won four Premier League 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 and in English football. In 2001, he was voted as Manchester United's player of the century and is affectionately nicknamed "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 role in the 1998 film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett.

Early life

Although it has been suggested that he was born in Parismarker, Cantona was actually born in Marseillemarker to Albert Cantona and Eleonore Raurich. The family home was a cave atop one of the hills in the 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 immigrated to Marseille from Sardinia, while his mother's parents had been Catalan separatists. Pedro Raurich, Cantona's maternal grandfather, was fighting the armies of General Franco 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. The Raurichs stayed in Saint-Priest, Ardèchemarker, before settling in Marseille.


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, and it was said that, "at nine, he was already playing like a fifteen-year-old".


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.

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."


Leeds United

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 Englandmarker for a one-week trial with Sheffield Wednesday, managed by Trevor Francis. When offered a further week extension to the trial, he refused and instead joined Yorkshiremarker 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. Cantona made fifteen appearances in for Leeds in their championship winning season and despite only scoring three goals he was instrumental in their title success with many assists. 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 complete.

Manchester United

Cantona signed for United on 26 November 1992, and made his first appearance in a friendly match against Benfica in Lisbonmarker to mark Eusébio's 50th birthday. He made his competitive debut as a second half substitute against Manchester City at Old Trafford on 12 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 Traffordmarker, 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 Highburymarker. This saw him suspended for five matches, including the FA Cup semi-final draw with Oldham Athletic.

Cantona kicks Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons
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 year.

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 Lankanmarker petrol station worker with a spanner in Croydonmarker, and that he had attended a National Front rally a short time before the Selhurst Parkmarker 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 courtmarker 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 Blackburnmarker. 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 Stadiummarker 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 player from outside the British Islesmarker 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 Roadmarker, 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 Spainmarker.

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 encourage him.

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 stance.

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 Gérard Houllier.

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. Cantona, Papin and Ginola lost their place and 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 France.

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 Nikemarker. 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 Marshesmarker 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 Irishmarker EuroMillions advertisement.

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.

Beach football

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 Brightonmarker. He managed the French Team which won the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005 in Rio de Janeiromarker. 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.

Career statistics

Club Season League Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Auxerre 1983–84 2 0 2 0
1984–85 5 2 5 2
1985–86 7 0 1 0 8 0
Martigues (loan) 1985–86 15 4 15 4
Total 15 4 15 4
Auxerre 1986–87 36 13 36 13
1987–88 32 8 5 1 2 1 39 10
Total 82 23 5 1 3 1 90 25
Marseille 1988–89 22 5 22 5
Bordeaux (loan) 1988–89 11 6 11 6
Total 11 6 11 6
Montpellier (loan) 1989–90 33 10 8 8 41 18
Total 33 10 8 8 41 18
Marseille 1990–91 18 8 5 1 3 1 26 10
Total 40 13 5 1 3 1 48 15
Nîmes 1991–92 17 2 2 2 19 4
Total 17 2 2 2 19 4
Leeds United 1991–92 15 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 15 3
1992–93 13 6 0 0 1 0 5 1 1 3 20 10
Total 28 9 0 0 1 0 5 1 1 3 35 13
Manchester United 1992–93 22 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 23 9
1993–94 34 18 5 4 5 1 4 2 1 0 49 25
1994–95 21 12 1 1 0 0 2 0 1 1 25 14
1995–96 30 14 7 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 38 19
1996–97 36 11 3 0 0 0 10 3 1 1 50 15
Total 143 64 17 10 6 1 16 5 3 2 185 82
Career total 369 131 36 22 7 1 27 8 4 5 432 161




Leeds United

Manchester United


PFA Players' Player of the Year: 1994
FWA Footballer of the Year: 1996


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 Farnborough F.C. in the Southern League Premier Division.

Partial filmography

  • 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 Overeater) - 2003 - Séléna
  • Les Clefs de bagnole (English title: The Car Keys) - 2003
  • La vie est à nous - 2005
  • Une belle histoire - 2005
  • Lisa et le pilote d'avion - 2007
  • Le Deuxième souffle (English title: Second Wind) - 2007
  • Jack Says - 2008
  • French Film - 2009
  • Looking for Eric - 2009


  1. Worrall 2008, p. 103
  2. - The Independent - London - HighBeam Research
  3. "Cantona returns", 2001.
  4. Cantona subsequently played a role in Blanc's arrival at Old Trafford after Euro 2000 having boasted about the talent Blanc possessed. "Cantona returns", 2001.
  5. Hills 2007
  6. Lacey, 1995.
  7. Jackson, 2004.
  8. Richardson, 2008.
  9. Wightman 2002, p. 198
  10. "Cantona blasts France", 2004.
  11. Includes other competitive competitions, including the FA Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, FIFA Club World Cup


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