Eric Cantona: the 7 most iconic quotes from the man himself

Eric Cantona
(Image credit: Getty)

Eric Cantona has never been shy. The Frenchman always acted on instinct on the field, as the limelight seemed to naturally drift towards his unmistakable silhouette. 

And things were rarely different in the post-match interviews and sit-down chats that Cantona graced his public with. With a ball at his feet, he was thoughtful: sat in front of a microphone, he was just as considered. 

The quiet philosophy of King Eric has become almost as iconic as what he achieved surrounded by the roars of tens of thousands. When it comes to all-time quotes, he's delivered more than almost any of his peers…

1. “You can change your wife, your politics, your religion, but never, never can you change your favourite football team.”

Despite swapping Leeds United for Manchester United, Cantona understood the meaning of the average fan's loyalty, declaring that a football club should mean more to you than a relationship or a religion.

This one came in 2009 film, Looking for Eric.

2. “My best moment? I have a lot of good moments but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan.”

Eric Cantona

(Image credit: PA)

Cantona is not a man of regret. Although he has declared the infamous Crystal Palace kung-fu kick in 1995 as his greatest moment, however, there is one regret that he has over the incident. 

"I didn’t hit him strong enough. I should have hit him harder," the man himself told FFT way back in 2008

3. “Often there are players who have only football as a way of expressing themselves and never develop other interest. And when they no longer play football, they no longer do anything; they no longer exist, or rather they have the sensation of no longer existing.”

While some players play as long as they possibly can, that was never an option that Cantona wanted to pursue. Having declared that he wanted to retire at the top, the Frenchman bowed out of the game as good as he ever had been… turning to acting.

It was a left turn but quintessentially Cantona. In fact, he later claimed that he wanted to act while he played – bet Fergie would have loved that…

4. "Deschamps gets by because he always gives 100 per cent, but he will never be anything more than a water carrier."

Didier Deschamps, France - Euro 2020

(Image credit: Getty Images)
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The classic put down of former team-mate Deschamps has become synonymous with the French World Cup hero – and the role of "water carrier" has taken on a new meaning since it left Cantona's lips. 

"You can find players like him (Deschamps) on every street corner. At present Didier likes to act like a monk and a moralist but he'll end up wallowing in every kind of vice," Cantona added. "The only two decent French players in Italy are Youri Djorkaeff and Zinedine Zidane and the rest are nothing special."

Ouch. 

5. “I play with passion and fire. I have to accept that sometimes this fire does harm.”

Leeds United only let go of the mercurial forward because of that aggressive streak.

Cantona was seen as uncontrollable by some: an untameable force of nature who wasn't worth the hassle. He never did keep his head down for long – and occasionally that fiery side reared its head.

6. “If I wanted a lot of personal attention, I would have taken up tennis – or found myself a nice girl to play mixed doubles with.”

Despite the reputation, the king himself says he is not hungry for the spotlight – and that if he was, he'd have taken up an individual sport. 

Cantona uttered this quote while making an impact at Manchester United. When he left, he claimed, “Leaving a club is like leaving a woman. When you have nothing left to say, you go.”

7. “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”

It's become iconic. In this press conference, following the Crystal Palace incident, Cantona essentially told the press that he was not going to be throwing them any sardines – in the most eloquent way possible. 

"It was an obscure thing to say, "Maurice Watkins, legal director of Manchester United said at the time. "He just does not want to stay here and meet you and answer questions because he has had enough… I think he has been under tremendous strain."

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Mark White
Staff Writer

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.