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Cantona Interview with The New Paper

Sun, Mar 6, 2011


Eric Cantona had an interview with The New Paper’s Sports Editor S. Murali while he was in Singapore. Here are excerpts from that interview.

Is the English Premier League (EPL) the best in the world? Especially with the Spanish teams like Barcelona playing so well?
There are so many great leagues in the world. The German league, the Italian league, the Spanish league, Brazil, Argentina, a few countries.

But if you were to pick one, would it be the EPL?
Yes, I think so. They have the best players, the way they play, the atmosphere. Everything makes this league special.

What about Barcelona? They are playing special football right now?
Yes, Barcelona are a great team, but they are a great team like United.

So Barcelona are not the best?
Yes, they are a great team but United are a great team too. There are a few teams that are equal. What makes the difference sometimes may be a player.

But what makes Barcelona great is that there are seven or eight players who come from the academy. And they were in the national team that won the World Cup.

And all of that is because (Johann) Cryuff and the experience he had in Ajax.

When he came to Barcelona in the early 1990s as a manager, Barcelona were one of the richest clubs in the world but never worked on their young players. And he started that.

He had his first success with young players after that so now it’s like a heritage, you know? (Pep) Guardiola was a player when Cryuff was manager and he works now with young players with their own view on football, so they create something.

Very few clubs work with young players in the way he works with young players.

Coming to that, who do you think is the best player in the world now? Do you think it is Lionel Messi?
I don’t like to speak about one player. If you speak about teams, it’s okay.

But do you enjoy watching Messi play?
I enjoy watching great players. Yeah.

Rooney recently hit a player on the head but didn’t get punished. With the wisdom you have gained over the years, what would you tell a young player. Express yourself or control your actions?
YOU have to control yourself most of the time. We have to be in control. Sometimes you have a bad day, a bad moon, you know, something can happen.

But the most important thing is to have this type of player to make the team successful, like Rooney has.

Are you amazed that your former teammate Ryan Giggs is still playing top-level football?
I admire him. So long. When I arrived at United he was already there. He used to drive me to training because we lived in the same area.

He is a great player and faithful to his club. I don’t know how he still finds the motivation, you know?

I admire this kind of player like (Paolo) Maldini when he was in AC Milan, who played for the same club for 20 years.

Maybe it’s because clubs like United, Milan and Barcelona are special. Xavi has been playing for Barcelona for 15 years.

So in that sense, do you sometimes feel that you retired too soon?
No, because I had the chance to do something else. It’s good to have different passions. To love different passions. To have the opportunity to do different things.

Is there a player out there who plays like Cantona?
No, weare all unique. Different personalities. To be successful, to play at the highest level, you need to have a strong personality. So they are all different.

Speaking of strong personalities, how important do you think it is for a player to have a strong persona? You were bigger than the game, with your upturned collar and your personality. But what about someone like Paul Scholes? Do you think he would have got greater recognition as a great player had he been louder or less quiet?
It’s just different personalities. It does not mean one is stronger than the other.

But Scholes doesn’t get the same recognition as a great player.
I think he gets the recognition.

You think so?
Yeah, yeah, you say he is a great player and I say he is a great player. Ferguson helps players develop their own personalities. And that is Scholes’ personality. And he has a strong personality. He is quiet, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not strong.

What is the one great quality that every footballer needs? What is the one thing you see in all great footballers?
Anticipation. The quicker you think, the better you are.

You can see it at the games at the highest level. They play very simple, one touch, pass, movement.

The more you go down, in terms of level, the more they need to control the ball, hold the ball, keep the ball, touch it many times. It’s because they don’t have the same sort of anticipation.

If I receive the ball and I know where I am going, before I receive the ball around me there is movement, so I just have to be skilful and to give a good pass.

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