Football: What next for Eric?

Ten possible new professions for the abdicating King of Old Trafford.
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The Independent Online
POET

Credentials: Astounding. Arthur Rimbaud, the poet he hugely admires, hung up his pen at an early age with the words "I'm not into that any more". Which, give or take a little, was what Cantona said in his retirement statement: "I always planned to retire at the top." Rimbaud toured Africa; Eric may yet do so with an All Stars XI.

Prospects: Not promising. Modern poets are an acquired taste, but Cantona's words are not so much difficult as incomprehensible. The football world may hang on to every syllable, but then it also listens to Vinnie Jones.

FOOTBALL

MANAGER

Credentials: Five Premierships, two doubles, 21 French caps... Need I go on? The man is about as qualified as he could be, given the rider that brilliant footballers rarely make brilliant managers.

Prospects: Has expressed an interest in coaching and his work with the youngsters at Old Trafford has been exemplary, but whether he would find the routine to his liking is another matter. The 1,000th question on Ryan Giggs's hamstring might pall after a while. Management is a possibility, but more likely in charge of a theatre or acting company.

MODEL

Credentials: Is Naomi Campbell good on the catwalk? Has posed for Manchester United, modelled for Paco Rabanne and made the up-turned collar, which was last paraded successfully by Neville Chamberlain, an essential fashion item.

Prospects: He would have half of Paris craving him if he became a clothes horse. The man sells things faster than his dummies and Old Trafford will be the poorer, literally, for not selling umpteen million No 7s next season.

ACTOR

Credentials: When did he stop? From the moment he swaggered on to an English football field with Leeds United he has put on a performance. Apart from that his straight roles include Nike adverts, and the film "Le Bonheur Est Dans Le Pre", which the Manchester Evening News described as a "delightful French comedy".

Prospects: "He would no more expect to fill a leading role than expect Kenneth Branagh to play centre-forward for Manchester United," Terence Blacker, joint author of "The Meaning of Cantona", said. There again, they said Ken would never play Henry V on film.

MARTIAL ARTIST

Credentials: Again, impressive. No single action gave kung fu more of a profile than Cantona's over-literal adherence to the Let's Kick Out Racism campaign at Crystal Palace. On the basis of any publicity being good publicity...

Prospects: Nil. The British Council of Chinese Martial Arts found the Selhurst Park incident disgraceful and that was just his technique. "No style, no balance, no authority" as Alan Hansen might have said. The idea is to immobilise your opponent, not risk breaking your back on an advertising hoarding.

ARTIST

Credentials: Nil? You do not get far without displaying your work and so far Cantona's has been kept under wraps. "I've not seen a single painting," Harold Riley, the Salford artist famous for his sporting portraits, said. "I couldn't comment on his ability."

Prospects: Professionally none, but as an amateur, possibly essential. "Painting is a very singular activity," Riley said, "and in him I think it was a release." More likely to be a subject, as in Michael Browne's "The Art Of The Game".

FOOTBALLER

Credentials: See management. The most prolific winner of prizes in England, he would walk into any team in the Premiership that did not have Juninho in it. Which might be a clue to his leaving Old Trafford.

Prospects: Has retired twice before and on each occasion missed the roar of the crowd. On those occasions, however, his decision was made in haste, whereas this one seems to have been taken in the leisure hours since United were knocked out of the European Cup. Nevertheless, it is not beyond the bounds of credibility to see headlines next autumn proclaiming: "The King is back".

PHILOSOPHER

Credentials: None, but, to ask a philosophical question, who has? Any man who can write "An artist, in my eyes, is anyone who can lighten up a room" has a chance of being described as a philosopher. Or pretentious.

Prospects: Outstanding. Cantona at least brought the subject into the public arena and has even been paid to issue his profundities (sic) in television adverts. If the world listens when you issue such waffle as "When the seagulls follow the trawler....", then anything is possible.

ROYALTY

Credentials: Impeccable. For four years Manchester and beyond has spoken of a French king, bemusing Paris, which thought it had last got rid of the breed in 1848. If you want your monarch to come ready equipped with hauteur, however, then Cantona is your man. One might quibble about his past behaviour but largess has never stopped the Duchess of York.

Prospects: Poor. If you cannot command a place in the French national team, what chance of commanding a country. One plus is his ability to lose his head; his compatriots appreciate that in their monarchs.

TRAWLERMAN

Credentials: See martial arts and philosophy.

Prospects: Are you kidding? Half the fishermen in Britain are fighting verbal and legal wars with their counterparts from the Continent. The last thing Europe's seas need is another trawlerman.

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