Cantona joins New York Cosmos

NEW YORK - Former Manchester United great Eric Cantona has been appointed director of soccer at the reformed New York Cosmos, the club said on Wednesday.

The Cosmos, a former powerhouse in the now-defunct North American Soccer League (NASL) who once boasted Pele and Franz Beckenbauer as players, folded in 1985 but was relaunched last August.

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While they currently have no players or stadium, the Cosmos are focusing on youth soccer.

The Cosmos hope to join North America's top professional league, Major League Soccer, and MLS is keen on the idea of a second team in New York to compete with the New York Red Bulls, who feature former Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry.

"I am very honoured to join the legendary club New York Cosmos. It's a big project, a wonderful project. The Cosmos are very strong, beautifully made, with a great past. It's kind of a mix between football and art," Frenchman Cantona said in a statement on the Cosmos website.

"I will do everything that I can to help us first find our way to regain the number one position in the United States and then for us to become one of the best clubs in the world over the coming years," he added.

Cantona, 44, was voted Manchester United's Player of the Century after retiring in 1997 at the end of colourful and frequently controversial career where he became a cult figure at Old Trafford.

"Three years ago when I first had the idea of reviving the New York Cosmos, I couldn't have dreamt that we would be able to attract an icon the likes of Eric Cantona," said Cosmos chairman Paul Kemsley.

Englishman Kemsley, a former Tottenham Hotspur vice-chairman, has already appointed Pele as honourary president of the club.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said last week that he was impressed by the progress being made by the Cosmos.

"We are still in discussion with a wide variety of potential investors in New York, the 20th team is a real priority for us," Garber said last week.

"We're not just intrigued by what Paul Kemsley and his partners have done with the Cosmos, I'm impressed by it. They've made a lot of really good decisions. They're very, very serious guys."

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