One of the most notorious and controversial characters in football today, Eric Cantona's sublime skills and forthright personality have made him an icon with English fans. His passion and defiance, vision and balance, have become the major influence in Manchester United's recent domination of the English Premier League.

Cantona was first unearthed by Auxerre before being sold to his home town club Marseilles for a transfer fee of two million pounds in 1988. Later that season, he made a goalscoring international debut against West Germany, but within months had been banned from the national team for a year after insulting French coach Michel Hidalgo. Further suspensions at Marseilles and unsettled loan spells at Bordeaux, Montpellier and Nimes eventually led to Cantona announcing his decision to quit football in 1991. However, by February 1992 he was given the opportunity to kick-start his career, this time in England with Leeds United.

He immediately helped the Yorkshire side take the League title in 1992, then, following a bargain 1.2 million pound transfer, repeated the feat with Manchester United a year later. The magic continued, as Cantona inspired the Old Trafford side to the League and Cup double in 1994 (scoring twice in the FA Cup final against Chelsea) and again in 1996 as United became the first club to achieve the double 'double'.

A self-proclaimed artist of the game, Cantona's short temper and quest for justice within football have constantly combined to land him in hot water. Never was this more evident than in January 1995, when, after receiving a red card, he took the law into his own hands by launching an incredible kung fu-style assault on a fan who had been taunting him during an FA Cup match. A picture of the kick appeared on the cover of Ash's single, Kung Fu.

He also recently appeared in an ambitious television advertisement by Nike, where he played the host of a secret three-on-three soccer/football tournament held on a freighter with eight teams of top footballers, including Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Edgar Davids, Luis Enríque, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Figo, Ronaldinho, Denilson, Gaizka Mendieta, Claudio López, Hernán Crespo, Fabio Cannavaro, and Rio Ferdinand.

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