Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona was possibly the sportsperson who made the most significant impact on a generation of the British public. Born on May 24th 1966 in Marseille to parents from Barcelona and Sardinia, he began his football career with SO Les Caillols before moving in rapid succession between Auxerre, his first professional club, where he made his debut in Ligue 1 in 1983-84, Martiques, Marseille, Bordeaux, Montpellier and Nimes, in permanent- and loan moves, before being transferred to Leeds United in 1992. By the age of twenty Cantona had completed his National Service, been on loan from Auxerre to French Second Division club Martiques, returned to Auxerre and won his first international cap for France.
Cantona was a member of the France U-21 squad that won the 1988 U21 European Championship, scoring a hat-trick in the Quarter-Final against England and joining the club he had supported as a child, Marseille, at the end of the tournament for a French record fee of twenty two million French Francs. Loan moves, connected with disciplinary problems, led to Cantona joining Bordeaux for six months and Montpellier for a year.
Cantona returned to Marseille for the 1989-90 season and the club won the French title, Cantona then being sold to Nimes. In December 1991, following more disagreements with the authorities, Cantona announced that he was retiring from football. The French national team coach Michel Platini persuaded him against this and the advice of Gérard Houllier and Cantona’s psychoanalyst, led to his move to England. Platini had encouraged Liverpool manager Graeme Souness to consider Cantona, but the move failed to materialise. Via a two-day abortive stay at Sheffield Wednesday, in February 1992 Nimes sold Cantona to Leeds United for £900,000: he was part of the club to win the last Football League First Division championship before the advent of the Premier League as the top division in English football.
Manchester United bought Cantona for £1.2 million in November 1992, involving a move that had started on the subject of Denis Irwin transferring rom Manchester to Leeds, but ended with Cantona moving the other way, in the absence of Alex Ferguson being able to acquire any of David Hirst, Matt Le Tissier or Brian Deane.
In Cantona’s first season Manchester United moved from 8th in the inaugural Premier League to winning it by ten points, for the club’s first title since 1967, 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, Marseille winning La Ligue in 1990-91.
The following season, 1993-94, Manchester United retained their title and they completed the double with a 4–0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup Final. Cantona was voted PFA Player of the Year for that season, and finished as Manchester United's top scorer in all competitions. His disciplinary issues were the only concern for Manchester United fans.
Season 1994-95 has been remembered for some of the wrong reasons, notably Cantona’s assault of a fan during Manchester United’s Premier League game at Crystal Palace, resulting in Cantona being sentenced to Community Service, losing the French national team captaincy, never playing for his country again and being fined and banned for eight months by the Football Association. Having persuaded him not to leave England, as he threatened to do, Alex Ferguson brought Cantona back in the October of the following season, as famous for the collapse of twelve-point-Premier-League-leaders-at-Christmas, Newcastle, as for Manchester United’s inspired second half of the season with Cantona in the squad and which resulted in the club’s third title in four seasons. The Double, a second for the club, was secured in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool.
The following season, 1996-97, Manchster United retained their title, bringing Cantona his sixth in seven seasons (United’s fourth in five), at which point, aged thirty, he announced that he was retiring from football, his final appearance before doing so, typically, 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’s post-professional-football career in acting and Beach Soccer is well-documented and has constituted as full a career as any retired elite sports player has ever performed. He is admired as much for his open views on a wide range of topics as he was as a world-class athlete.
Premier League: 1992–93, 1993–94,1995–96, 1996–97
FA Charity Shield: 1993, 1994, 1996
FA Cup: 1993–94, 1995–96
UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship: 1988
Euro Beach Soccer League: 2004
FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup: 2005
Premier League leader in assists: 1992–93, 1996–97
BBC Sport Goal of the Month: February 1994, December 1996
PFA Premier League Team of the Year:1993–94
PFA Players' Player of the Year: 1993–94
FWA Footballer of the Year: 1995–96
Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year:1993–94, 1995–96
Onze d'Or: 1996
ESM Team of the Year: 1995–96
Premier League 10 Seasons Awards(1992–93 to 2001–02)
Overseas Player of the Decade
UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll: No. 42
FIFA 100 Greatest Living Footballers: 2004
PFA Team of the Century (1907–2007):
Team of the Century 1997–2007
Football League 100 Legends
Golden Foot Legends Award: 2012
Remember the greatness of Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona by owning the signed Manchester United shirt
and this signed framed photo