In quotes: Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona is football, poetry and war fused into one man.

Collar popped, he carried his frustrations around like a coat of arms – constantly at odds with his opponents, his own teammates, and, most famously during an event which will live in Premier League infamy, the fans.

Like all great artists, he left you wanting more. He played in only five seasons for Manchester United, a period which even included an eight month ban for the infamous ‘kung fu kick’ incident. Far more than a tortured artist though, he was a scorer of great goals, a sublime penalty taker and one of very few players to win the English league title with two different clubs.

A role model and inspiration for the younger players, he was already on the beach (quite literally) when the ‘Class of 92’ generation hit the pinnacle of European football at the Camp Nou in 1999. 

While his time on the pitch was cut short, the Frenchman diversified into other things – politics, acting, humanitarianism. His victory was fleeting, but he left an indelible mark in English football and an almost transcendent legacy at Old Trafford.

Here are 10 quotes from Cantona, followed by 10 from his fellow professionals. Enjoy…

The man himself…

1. On his achievements in the Premier League:

‘I’m proud of what I achieved there, but a life built on memories is not much of a life’

2. On his love for his former manager:

‘You may find another Beckham or Ronaldo, but never ever will you find another Sir Alex Ferguson’

3. The infamous ‘kung fu kick’ incident:

‘My best moment? I have a lot of good moments but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan’

4. On his legend status at Old Trafford:

‘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’

5. His competitive streak:

‘I don’t play against a particular team. I play against the idea of losing… my ancestors were fighters, something I have inherited’

6. On his love for Manchester United:

‘You can change your wife, your politics, your religion, but never, never can you change your favourite football team’

“I think life is a big game we play”

7. On retirement:

‘I stopped playing football because I’d done as much as I could. I needed something which was going to excite me as much as football had excited me’

8. His philosophy on life:

‘I think life is a big game we play’

9. Expressing himself:

‘I try to find different ways of expressing myself. Without that I will die’

10. On his other passions outside of football:

‘Often there are players who have only football as a way of expressing themselves and never develop other interests. 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’


Fellow professionals…

11. Sir Alex Ferguson:

‘If ever there was one player, anywhere in the world, that was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona. He swaggered in, stuck his chest out, raised his head and surveyed everything as though he were asking: ‘I’m Cantona. How big are you? Are you big enough for me?’

12. Ryan Giggs:

‘Eric Cantona brought an extra dimension. Plenty of things he tried didn’t come off, but you remember the ones that did — the flicks, the outrageous lobs. He made things look easy that weren’t easy at all’

13. Ronaldinho:

‘I remember seeing Eric Cantona play for Manchester United. The way he used to control games was special to watch’

14. Roy Keane:

‘Collar up, back straight, chest stuck out, he glided into the arena as if he owned the f***ing place. Any arena, but nowhere more effectively than Old Trafford. This was his stage. He loved it, the crowd loved him’


15. Nicolas Anelka:

‘I appreciate ‘Canto’ a lot, I have always been 150 per cent behind him, whether what he did was right or wrong’

16. Andy Cole:

‘He was the only player I saw who the manager never had a go at. We all went to a film premiere and were told to wear black ties. Eric turned up in a cream lemon suit with Nike trainers. The manager told him that he looked fantastic!’

“I imitated him all the time, he was like an alien”

17. Emmanuel Petit:

‘A sublime player, and the guy who opened the door for so many other Frenchmen in the English championship. A player with character – the King!’

18. David Beckham:

‘Once he got to United, everything changed. It was as if he’d found the place he belonged and the stage he thought he deserved. Eric is a great guy, a great player, one of the best players I have ever played with’

19. Michael Essien:

‘When I was kid I was a crazy fan of Eric Cantona’s. I imitated him all the time, he was like an alien!’

20. And the final word goes to his fellow legendary number 7, George Best:

‘Cantona was one of the best French players of all time. I’d give all the champagne I’ve ever drunk to be playing alongside him in a big European match at Old Trafford’


Tomorrow’s ‘In Quotes’… Diego Maradona.

Chris Henderson

By |2020-04-15T11:40:59+00:00April 15th, 2020|

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