Volatile French philosopher withdraws from sport

Eric Cantona, the footballer who quoted Rimbaud but brawled like Rambo, shook the world of soccer to its core yesterday by announcing his retirement from the game at the age of 31.

The unpredictable Frenchman, whose notoriety reached its peak with a kung-fu attack on a fan in 1995, said he wanted to quit while he was at the top after winning five Premiership titles in six years with Manchester United and Leeds.

Club directors were taken by surprise by Cantona's decision. In a statement read out at a hastily-convened press conference, which the player did not attend, he said: "I have played professional football for 13 years, which is a long time. I now wish to do other things. I have always planned to retire when I was at the top, and at Manchester United I have reached the pinnacle of my career."

Alex Ferguson, the United manager, had tried over several days to persuade the Frenchman to stay, but his mind was made up. Paying tribute to Cantona, he said: "Whenever fans discuss United's greatest ever side, you can be sure that for many Eric's name will be very high up on the list. He leaves with our best wishes and will always be welcome at Old Trafford. He has given us so many wonderful memories."

After a troubled career in France, Cantona moved to England, where he quickly helped Leeds United to the Premiership title. He moved to Old Trafford in 1992 and went on to inspire the team to four championships including two league and cup doubles. He has become an idol for a generation of fans.

But he has been criticised, too, for the violent streak that saw him attack a Crystal Palace fan who was hurling insults at him from the terraces. It was after being sentenced to 120 hours community service for that attack that he demonstrated his penchant for homespun philosophy.

"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think that sardines will be thrown into the sea," he said, creating confusion in his trawler's metaphorical wake. More thoughts of Eric Cantona were used in a series of Eurostar advertisements. Here, the footballer demonstrated his acting abilities - a career he would like to pursue.

He will always be remembered, however, for bringing poetry into the previously clogbound English game. Once, when discussing football as art, he wrote: "An artist, in my eyes, is someone who can lighten up a dark room. I have never, and will never, find any difference between the pass from Pele to Carlos Alberto in the final of the World Cup in 1970 and the poetry of the young Rimbaud.

"There is, in each of these human manifestations, an expression of beauty which touches us and gives us a feeling of eternity."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Essex

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Hertfordshire -Large Established Business

£22000 - £28000 per annum + study support, gym: Ashdown Group: A large busines...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before