Eric Cantona - Legend or Beast?
Eric Cantona - a typical Frenchman? His mystical style has won over many during his playing career, both on and off the pitch, but is there a darker side to 'The King'?
Eric was born in Marseilles, and eventually joined his boyhood club in 1988, for a fee of 22 million francs, comfortably breaking the previous transfer record in French football. It was a short while after this transfer, from Auxerre, that he showed the first time of another side to him. After a rather public disagreement with the national selector, Henri Michel, he called him 'de sac a merde', which translates to a bag of...I'm sure you can guess. The outburst earned him a one year ban from national selection.
Indeed, with only 45 appearances made for France 'A', scoring 20 goals, one could say he never really realized his potential in the world of national football. He has only one international title his name, winning the 'Championnat D'Europe Espoirs' in 1988. He disagreed with the French system, and his move to England was far from surprising. After a trial at Sheffield Wednesday, and a short stint at Leeds United, he was transferred to Manchester United, for a fee of £1.2m. It was at Manchester United that he quickly earned his nickname 'Eric the King', and any football watcher, young or old, can only admire his chipped goal into the Stretford End net, and the celebration of his raised arms, responding to the rapturous home crowd.
However, his worst moment also occurred in a Man Utd shirt. In January 1995, after a red card in a match against Crystal Palace, he snapped when a supporter insulted him. Call it red flag to a bull. Call it the dark Cantona. Call it a human reaction to being called unspeakable things. Something clicked. It happens to the best, just ask David Beckham, or even more famously, Zinedine Zidane. In Cantona's case, he kung-fu kicked the supporter, or, as in the far more elegant French language 'il a fait son fameux coup de pied circulaire'.Continued on the next page