Cantona is best foreign player of the decade

  • Other Sport
  • Wednesday, 16 Apr 2003

LONDON: He has played a boorish boxing bully and an Elizabethan courtier on the silver screen, but Eric Cantona was back on a more familiar stage on Monday. 

In London to collect his award for the English Premier League's Overseas Player of the Decade, the former Manchester United striker took centre stage to discuss this season's championship race. 

BEST OF DECADE...Frenchman Eric Cantona and England's Alan Shearer hold aloft the Premier League trophy after being named as best foreign and domestic player of the decade respectively.--APpic.

His old team and Arsenal meet today in what looks like a championship decider between England's strongest sides. 

But while the Frenchman cannot separate the two for this week's match, he sees one club lifting the championship. 

“Well... I see a draw this week,” Cantona said, rubbing a stubbly chin looking a little more rounded than in his hey-day. 

“But I see Manchester United champions... honestly,” he added. “Because I think in the few games before the end I see Manchester United having the strongest players mentally.” 

In hesitant English, Cantona kept his audience rapt, explaining why Alex Ferguson has achieved such success. 

“I think sometimes the managers (in England) don't lead by a good example... they are fat and they drink... how can a manager lead by that example,” he smiled darkly. 

“How can a player respect that... so they go to the pub and drink. “But Alex Ferguson gives the perfect example.” 

Despite his sporting wisdom and all the carefully chosen lines provided by cinema scriptwriters for the actor, Cantona is still best known for one piece of homespun philosophy. 

He smiles wryly when asked of that moment when he left reporters open-mouthed in 1995. 

The quote followed an extraordinary incident when Cantona took matters into his own hands by kicking Crystal Palace defender Richard Shaw. 

Then, as he walked down the touchline after the inevitable red card, he aimed a kung-fu kick at a fan mouthing insults at him. 

That indiscretion cost him an eight-month ban. It also cost United the title and sparked the famous utterance. 

After an appeal hearing spared him a prison sentence, Cantona declared: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.” 

Eight years on, the Frenchman is no nearer decoding that statement. – Reuters 

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