Who'd have thought it...first an actor...and then a director...
When we talk about complex personalities in football, we think of George Best, Paul Gascoigne, Joey Barton and others who to varying degrees have lost their way...
The first two were definitely "artists," more than on the football pitch; Barton is an unreconstructed English literature afficionado (especially on Twitter!)
Of course, Cantona could have lost his way after the Crystal Palace incident and probably owes a lot to Sir Alex, but in truth, he seems almost always to have known his own direction and destiny.
His "seagulls" quote left the mass media in his wake and he has always been a private man, except in his ambitions.
This is a man, however, who, despite never fully getting the recognition he should have from the French national coaches, will always be remembered by anyone who has watched the Premier League.
He was a standout—both as a footballer and as a person—a complete one-off. He may have lost his cool when he auditioned for The Karate Kid Part 5, but he turned everything round to be better still and bolder on his return.
Eric always spoke his mind, and it is a pity that only a year after his debut for France, he was banned indefinitely for his irreverent description of the French national coach.
The latter was sacked soon after and Michel Platini recalled Cantona, who had the misfortune to be a contemporary of Zinedine Zidane, at a time when France needed only one playmaker. His Premier League suspension didn't help, however, and after 1995, he never played for France again.
Forty-five caps is not a fair reflection of Cantona's international competence. He did, however, score 20 goals at 0.44 a game. While his club career average is 0.37, Manchester United was the best club he played for. His goals-per-game average there matched his international average.
Eric was gifted with great footballing skill, but like so few players, he matched art with technique. He can be favourably compared to Zinedine Zidane, especially when one considers they basically played different roles.
However, Cantona was credible in both roles—striker and playmaker—whereas Zidane was too languid to be an out and out striker.
So, you either think he was the greatest or not depending on whether you take the narrow view or a wider one. Here are some other possibilities.