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Football Misfits: Eric Cantona, the French Rebel

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In the third entry of our Football Misfits ongoing series, it’s time to talk about one of this sports most misunderstood talents who became an icon for Manchester United.

It’s said that in all sports sometimes a genius tends to be misunderstood, which is exactly the case with Eric Cantona, our third entry for the ongoing Football Misfits series. The French forward who became a football icon for Manchester United and the Premier League, really struggled to be successful during his time in French football. At the beginning of his career, Eric Cantona’s unruly personality as a football professional brought him many problems that kept him from showing the true extent of his abilities as a player. He jumped from one club to another during the mid 80’s decade until the France manager Michel Platini, convinced him to try his luck in a different country on a league that represented a bigger challenge for him. Eric then decided to give it a go at the English Premier League, he arrived at the islands in 1991 on the brink of an early retirement at only 25 years old.


How English football changed Eric Cantona’s life forever.

This was a player who kept getting into disciplinary problems with the French football federation, whether it eas an episode against a rival or an embarrassing moment with a referee during a match, Eric Cantona always found a way to get himself into trouble and this nearly pushed him to retire from the sport altogether. But legendary former player Michel Platini and the France national team manager at the moment, convinced Cantona to leave France and play in England where he quickly got into Sir Alex Ferguson’s radar after leading Leeds United to the league championship in 1992. The Red Devils didn’t hesitate to sign Cantona in November of that same year, that’s how Cantona’s most important chapter of his career began as Manchester United’s number ‘7’ and one of the new formed Premier League’s first top talents.

Manchester United’s first franchise player in the Premier League.

Cantona became the club’s most important player during the early years of the Premier League, he would be one of the main responsible figures for the competition’s transformation into one of the world’s most competitive leagues. Cantona’s daredevil attitude both on and off the field turned him into Manchester United’s biggest sensation since George Best during the 60’s, but the French genius always put his money where his mouth was and never ceased to deliver outstanding performances during his career with the Red Devils. A great reason for his success was Sir Alex Ferguson’s ability to deal with his personality, the Scotsman understood how to treat complicated players like him and always regarded Eric as his most talented player during the time in which the Fergie Babes were still in a development stage. Cantona also played a major role in teaching the younger generations how to behave in the professional world, he set the example of how to be a football superstar to the players who later won the treble for the club.


Cantona retires at the top and his biggest mistake as a professional.

But the biggest reason we decided to include Eric Cantona on this list is due of an incident that marked his career forever, which took place in a Manchester United match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. As the French forward left the field after being sent off, a fan yelled xenophobic cries demanding him to go back to his country. This awoke Cantona’s most primal reaction and responded by kicking the crap out of the fan, an action that had a huge impact in both his career as a player and also within British society. This resulted in the French player’s eight-month ban from professional football, a 20,000-pound sanction, and it also a ban from the French national team just before the European Championship. After his return to football, Cantona decided to retire early and in 1997 he hung up his boots for good, this decision kept him from being part of the 1998 World Cup championship in his country which may be one of his greatest regrets as a player. But we wouldn’t like him any other way, we love him for being such a rebel. A true Football Misfit, Eric Cantona.

What memories of Eric Cantona come to mind when you think about his turbulent football career? Please share your opinion on the comment section down below.