Premier League legend Eric Cantona has admitted that he thought Sheffield Wednesday intended to sign him when he was invited to train with the club in 1992, not realising it was only a trial.
After a rollercoaster few years in France, Cantona had suddenly announced his retirement in December 1991 at the age of just 25 when he was banned for two months by the French Football Federation after throwing a ball at a referee while in action for Nimes.
Future France, Liverpool and Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier was one of those who persuaded Cantona to start afresh in England. Liverpool turned down the opportunity to sign him but Sheffield Wednesday invited him to train with them – it later turned out as favour from Owls manager Trevor Francis from former Serie A acquaintance Michel Platini, who was France coach at the time.
Cantona, who was an established international player and had scored 11 goals in 15 appearances for France across 1989, 1990 and 1991, didn’t realise what the arrangement was.
“I didn’t know that it was a trial, I thought I was there to sign,” he revealed while the subject of the latest episode of BT Sport’s What I Wore series.
“After a week, they said, ‘You have to spend one more week on trial’.
“But it tells a lot about the difference with foreign or French players, because I played for the French national team at this time. I played for French national team and I was at Sheffield Wednesday…and they said, ‘You are on trial’.
“Now things have changed. You have maybe 60 players from France [in England] and can have two or three French national teams of players who play in England.”
Cantona obviously didn’t end up staying in Sheffield, instead moving to Leeds. He helped the club win the old First Division title in 1992, the final season before the transformation into the Premier League, before joining Manchester United in November of that year.
He became a legend at Old Trafford, becoming the catalyst behind the club’s first league title in 26 years in 1992/93, underpinning the success that followed throghout the mid-1990s and serving as an influence and mentor to an up and coming generation of home-grown talent.
Watch Man Utd v Man City exclusively live on BT Sport 1 this Saturday from 11:30am. BT Sport Monthly Pass is the flexible, contract free way to watch, for more info visit bt.com/sport