Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona is a French actor, director, producer, and former professional footballer. 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. At international level, he played for the French national team. 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. He wore the iconic No. 7 shirt at Manchester United, and is known for turning up his collar. Cantona is affectionately nicknamed by Manchester United fans as “King Eric” and was voted as the team’s greatest ever player by Inside United magazine. Set against his achievements in football was a poor disciplinary record for much of his career, including a 1995 conviction for an assault on an abusive spectator for which he received an 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 play directed by his wife, Rachida Brakni. Cantona also took an interest in the sport of beach soccer, and as player-manager of the France national team, he won the 2005 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Charismatic and outspoken, Cantona was an inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002. The museum states that “the enigmatic Frenchman was one of the Premier League’s most controversial players ever”. At the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards in 2003, he was voted the Overseas Player of the Decade. In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players. Cantona was born in Marseille on 24 May 1966, the son of dressmaker Éléonore Raurich, and nurse and painter Albert Cantona. His mother was Spanish and came from Barcelona, while his paternal grandfather was Italian and had emigrated to Marseille from Sardinia. While fighting the armies of General Franco in the Spanish Civil War in 1938, Cantona’s maternal grandfather, Pere Raurich, suffered a serious injury to his liver and had to retreat to France for medical treatment with his wife; they stayed in Saint-Priest, Ardèche, before settling in Marseille. The Cantona 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 lookout post for the Wehrmacht towards the end of the Second World War.
MANCHESTER UNITED F.C.
Manchester United vs Porto
Match Worn Shirt
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This shirt was worn by Eric Cantona during the Champions League game between Manchester United and Porto which took place in Manchester, “Old Trafford”, on March 5th 1997. Manchester United defeated Porto 4-0. Cantona was named 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. Cantona’s stand-out moment in his final season was a goal and memorable celebration against Sunderland in December 1996; after chipping Sunderland goalkeeper Lionel Pérez from just inside the penalty area, Cantona celebrated by standing still, emotionless, slowly turning around and raising his arms before embracing Brian McClair, who had provided the assist. At the end of the season he announced that he was retiring from football at the age of 30. 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, 13 in domestic cup competitions, and 5 in the Champions League, bringing his tally to 82 goals in less than five years.
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Regarded as one of the best players of his generation, one of the greatest Premier League players of all time, and as one of France’s and Manchester United’s greatest players ever, Cantona is affectionately nicknamed by Manchester United fans as “King Eric.” A large, physically strong, hard-working, and tenacious player, Cantona was a world–class forward, who combined technical skill and creativity with power and goalscoring ability. Despite his height and imposing physique, he was an elegant player on the ball, due to his long torso, which gave him a lower centre of gravity than most players of his stature, and who possessed strong technical skills and ball control, as well as an excellent first touch. Moreover, he was renowned for his vision, passing, intelligence, quick–thinking, and playmaking skills, in addition to his eye for goal and powerful and accurate striking ability, which often saw him score from spectacular strikes and volleys; as such, he often played in a free, creative role between the midfield and forward lines throughout his career, acting as a deep–lying forward behind the main striker, due to his tendency to drop deep into midfield to retrieve the ball and orchestrate attacking plays, as well as his ability both to score goals and provide assists for teammates. However, Cantona was also capable of playing as a centre-forward, due to his ability to hold-up the ball with his back to goal (although this was not his favoured position), as an out–and–out striker, as an attacking midfielder, or even as a central midfielder on occasion. He was also an accurate penalty and free kick taker. Due to his height, physique, positional sense, and heading accuracy, he was strong in the air; furthermore, he was also known for being both mentally and physically tough, and was highly regarded for his strong, commanding, and charismatic personality, as well as his leadership and bravery, which helped to alleviate pressure from his teammates. Indeed, Cantona was also known for iconically turning up his collar during matches; Wayne Barton notes that he first wore his collar up in a Manchester derby match on 7 November 1993, following United’s elimination from Europe at the hands of Galatasary, commenting: “one wonders if, in his own superstitious way, this was Cantona’s way of calming that fire inside him after the trip to Turkey, a way to focus his thoughts on moving forward.” When asked about the reason behind his famous on-field appearance, he commented: “I didn’t plan it. During one game it was cold and my collar just stayed up. We won, so it became a habit to play with my collar up.” Cantona was a hard-working player, who also stood out for his defensive contribution off the ball, as well as his ability to start attacking plays after winning back possession; he also drew praise in the media for his discipline and dedication in training. Despite his talent and natural ability, however, he was also notorious for his aggression, confrontational behaviour, volatile temper, and lack of discipline on the pitch, as well as his tendency to commit hard challenges, which made him a highly controversial figure in world football. Moreover, he was known for being outspoken on a number of issues, and was even accused in media of what was perceived as being arrogant. When he was asked whether Zidane or Platini was the greatest French player of all time, for example, he said: “No, it is me.” He also drew criticism from certain pundits for being inconsistent at times, and for his disappointing performances in European club competitions, as well as his lack of significant speed, which was particularly evident in his later career, as he lost some of his pace with age. 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 stars as The Corsican in the Danish western The Salvation, which premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival on 17 May 2014. In January 2020, Cantona played The King in the music video for Liam Gallagher’s single “Once”. 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 kicking Palace defender Richard Shaw after Shaw had frustrated Cantona throughout the game by closely marking him. 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 bastard”. 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. As well as disciplinary action from his club and The FA, 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. 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. Cantona has frequently appeared in commercials for the sportswear company Nike. In 1994, he was involved in a Nike advertising campaign which featured a black and white image of himself in front of the English flag, with the caption: “’66 was a great year for English football. Eric was born.” 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. Since his retirement from professional football in 1997, Cantona has continued to appear in Nike commercials, often in a non playing role. In 1997 he starred in Nike’s “Park Life” commercial (set to the tune “Parklife” by Blur) where a group of pub league players playing amateur football at Hackney Marshes in east London are suddenly joined by top Premier League footballers, including Cantona, Ian Wright, David Seaman and Robbie Fowler. In 2000, “Park Life” was ranked number 15 in Channel 4’s poll of the 100 Greatest TV Ads. 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. 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. He also starred in a Eurostar commercial in 1996, and an Irish EuroMillions advertisement in 2004. In 2009, he featured in a British television advertisement for a new model of the Renault Laguna. In 2007, he performed a spoken-word role on the album La mécanique du cœur, by French rock band Dionysos.