|Height:||188 cm (6' 3'')|
|Birth Day:||May 24, 1966|
|Birth Place:||Marseille, France|
|#5||Isabelle Ferrer||Former spouse||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#11||Rachida Brakni||Spouse||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||43||Model|
|Height||Weight||Hair Colour||Eye Colour||Blood Type||Tattoo(s)|
|188 cm (6' 3'')||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
He began his youth career with the local team SO Caillolais in 1980, then went on to debut professionally for Auxerre in 1983.
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. The site was chosen in the mid-1950s by Cantona's paternal grandmother, whose husband 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 habitable standard. Cantona has two brothers: Jean-Marie, who is four years older, and Joël, who is 17 months younger.
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.
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 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.
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. However, Michel was sacked shortly after that having failed to qualify for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
Cantona married Isabelle Ferrer in 1987, and they had two children together before divorcing in 2003. He married actress Rachida Brakni in 2007; they also have two children together.
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.
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.
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.
Cantona's arrival at Leeds United was announced in January 1992. Leeds would pay £100,000 to Nîmes to take him on loan until 15 April, after which they would have to pay another £900,000 to sign him permanently. Cantona made his debut for Leeds in a 2–0 loss at Oldham Athletic on 8 February 1992. At Leeds, he was part of the team that won the final Football League First Division title before it was replaced by the Premier League as the top division in English football. He made 15 appearances, and despite only scoring three goals, he was instrumental in their title success, primarily with assists for leading goalscorer Lee Chapman. Cantona scored his first goal for Leeds in a 2–0 win at home to Luton Town on 29 February, and set up the other goal for Chapman. Having played little football in the six weeks before signing for Leeds, Cantona struggled to find a place in an established line-up, with manager Howard Wilkinson preferring to put him on against tiring defences. Against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on 7 March, Cantona came off the bench to set up a goal for Gary McAllister, securing a win that moved Leeds two points ahead of Manchester United, who had a game in hand, in the title race. Cantona was deployed as a part of a front three, along with Chapman and Rod Wallace, in a 5–1 thrashing of Wimbledon at Elland Road on 14 March, scoring Leeds' fourth goal of the game.
In the 1992 FA Charity Shield that August, with Leeds missing several key players, Cantona scored a hat-trick in a 4–3 victory over Liverpool, the first hat-trick in the Charity Shield since Tommy Taylor in 1957. Cantona's hat-trick places him among the small group of players to have scored three or more goals in games at Wembley Stadium. Leeds started their title defence with a 2–1 win over Wimbledon on 15 August; Cantona started alongside Chapman up front, but had a quiet game, although he did pick up his first yellow card in English football, after 17 games. After Cantona scored his first league goal of the season in a 4–1 defeat at Middlesbrough, and followed it up with another hat-trick, the first in the newly created Premier League in a 5–0 win over Tottenham on 25 August. Cantona then flew to Paris to join the French national team for a friendly against Brazil on the very same day, due to newly installed manager Gérard Houllier's desire to have the whole squad present for his first match.
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 manager Alex Ferguson at the time, and both 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 whether Cantona was for sale. Fotherby had to consult with Wilkinson, but within a few days the deal was complete.
Cantona 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. He made his first appearance for the club on 1 December 1992 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. Manchester United won 2–1, though Cantona made little impact that day.
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 by the hour mark. 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 Football Association. Manchester United only lost twice in the league after Cantona's arrival, and finished the season 10 points clear at the top of the table, finishing as champions for the first time in 26 years, and making Cantona 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.
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.
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.
Manchester United retained the Premier League, and Cantona's two penalties helped them to a 4–0 win over Chelsea in the 1994 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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."
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."
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."
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.
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; however, Cantona opposes the ownership of Manchester United by the Glazer family, and has stated that he will not return to the club, even as a manager, while they are in charge.
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 after almost 15 years involved in the team. In 2019, the magazine France Football placed Cantona fourth in an article named "10 Legends of Beach Soccer".
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.
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". In 2002, the notoriety of the Kung fu kick saw it ranked number 12 on Channel 4's poll of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.
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." 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. 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". The two parties later agreed to dismiss the lawsuit, though terms of a settlement were not disclosed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By the time Cantona's suspension had been completed, he had lost his role as the team's playmaker to Zinedine 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. 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.
Cantona received the UEFA President's Award in August 2019. Dressed in a flat cap, he began by quoting William Shakespeare's King Lear – "As flies to wanton boys we are for the gods" – before referencing science, war and crime. Similar to the response to his "seagulls" press conference in 1995, the puzzled audience watched in silence.
In January 2020, Cantona played The King in the music video for Liam Gallagher's single "Once".
Currently, Eric Cantona is 55 years, 11 months and 28 days old. Eric Cantona will celebrate 56th birthday on a Tuesday 24th of May 2022.
Find out about Eric Cantona birthday activities in timeline view here.