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Eric Cantona: Top 10 quotes & controversial moments from Manchester United legend

14:28 GMT+3 22/05/2019
Eric Cantona
‘King Eric’ became an icon at Old Trafford for his brilliance on the field, yet he was just as mercurial away from it

  • HD Eric Cantona

    #1 "The revolution is really easy to do these days. What's the system? The system is built on the power of the banks. So it must be destroyed through the banks. A real revolution" (2010)

    Having grown up in humble beginnings in Marseille, Eric Cantona has remained in touch with his roots and after the global financial crisis he called for people all over the world to withdraw their money from banks.

    Economists questioned the validity of his plan, noting that the banks would have quickly run out of cash funds and would have required further government intervention to help them.

    Despite some momentum gathered in France, his call for revolution was never heeded.

  • George Best

    #2 "After his first training session in heaven, George Best, from the favourite right wing, turned the head of God who was filling in at left back." (2005)

    Manchester United great George Best, who was the personification of the joyful football that Cantona so appreciated, was eulogised by the former France international star in a beautifully eloquent manner.

    In 1997, Best said of Cantona: “I’d give all the champagne I’ve ever drunk to play alongside him in a big European match at Old Trafford.”

  • Eric Cantona

    #3 "I am not a man, I am Cantona" (2009)

    Since retiring from football, Cantona famously went into acting and played a role in Ken Loach’s film ‘Looking for Eric’, in which he comes to the rescue of United fan Eric Bishop.

    As the postman battles through a mid-life crisis, guided by his idol, he is told by the former attacker: “I am not a man, I am Cantona.”

  • Ryan Giggs Eric Cantona Manchester United

    #4 “Often there are players who have only football as a way of expressing themselves and never develop other interest. And when they no longer play football, they no longer do anything; they no longer exist, or rather they have the sensation of no longer existing.”

    In an era when foreign players were the exception and not the norm, Cantona stood out in English football for his ability on the pitch and demeanour off it.

    While his Manchester United team-mates were reading the tabloids, playing cards or Gameboys on the team bus, Cantona was sitting alone reading classic French literature quipping: “I didn't study, I live.” 

    As such it perhaps wasn't a surprise that he walked away at his peak citing lack of motivation and desire to try new things adding: “I'm proud of what I achieved there, but life on memories is not much of a life.”

  • Eric Cantona

    #5 “Au Revoir” (1996)

    Cantona was a cultural phenomenon during his playing days, so it was little surprise that he was wanted by companies to promote their products.

    Undoubtedly his most famous commercial was for Nike, in which he was portrayed playing alongside superstars from all over the world, such as Paolo Maldini, Luis Figo and Ronaldo against a team of demonic warriors.

    Cantona had the starring role, flicking up his shirt collar in trademark fashion and telling the opposing goalkeeper: ‘Au revoir’ before blasting a shot literally through the goalkeeper.

    The ‘Good vs Evil’ advert is still one of the most iconic commercials in which football plays a central theme.

  • HD Eric Cantona

    #6 "My best moment? I have a lot of good moments but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan."

    Asked to reflect on his footballing career, which was full of magical moments and great triumphs, Cantona picked his most infamous moment: when he launched himself kung-fu style into the Crystal Palace crowd to kick a fan, Matthew Simmons, who had been abusing him.

    The Frenchman was subsequently suspended for eight months, during which time Manchester United toiled without their talisman.

    “I’d have cut his balls off,” legendary manager Bryan Clough said.

  • HD Eric Cantona

    #7 “I am Cantona. I can go as I want.” (1995)

    Cantona shocked Manchester United team-mate Paul Ince when he turned up prior to his court appearance for the aforementioned kick in a shirt unbuttoned to his chest.

    As Ince recalled in 2005: “I told him: ‘Eric, you can’t go to court like that.’ He says: ‘I am Cantona. I can go as I want.’ So he got into the dock and he got 14 days in prison. I thought: ‘Oh my God, it must be that shirt.’”

  • Eric Cantona France

    #8 "Sac à Merde" (1988)

    One of the driving forces behind Cantona’s move to the Premier League was because he had fallen out with apparently everyone in France. 

    One of those that was on the wrong end of his ire was national team coach Henri Michel, who had the audacity to drop him for a young Zinedine Zidane. 

    On live television, he called the coach a “bag of sh*t”, was indefinitely banned from the national team and only returned when Michel Platini took charge later in the year.

  • HD Eric Cantona

    #9 "Deschamps gets by because he always gives 100 per cent, but he will never be anything more than a water carrier." (1996)

    Among the other players he fell out with during his career was Didier Deschamps, who was an icon with Cantona’s hometown club of Marseille for having captained them to Champions League success in 1992-93. 

    Ahead of a Champions League clash against Deschamps’ Juventus in 1996, Cantona made no bones about a man who was the antithesis of the artistic game that he believed in.

    “You can find players like him (Deschamps) on every street corner. At present Didier likes to act like a monk and a moralist but he'll end up wallowing in every kind of vice,” he said. “The only two decent French players in Italy are Youri Djorkaeff and Zinedine Zidane and the rest are nothing special.”

    It certainly provoked a reaction from Deschamps, who would carry those words with him as a badge of honour for the remainder of his career. Moreover, his Juve side won both games.

  • Eric Cantona

    #10 "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much." (1995)

    Cantona was responsible for one of the most bizarre press conferences in footballing history following his sentencing for the Crystal Palace fan assault. 

    He sat sullenly after being thrown in front of the media, having been given community service after a two-week prison sentence was successfully appealed. 

    Cantona’s only words during the entire affair were these two sentences, which were spoken slowly and deliberately, with the player taking sips of water as he did so.

    He then got up and left.