It was no ordinary speech but then again Eric Cantona was no ordinary footballer.
The Frenchman, once voted Manchester United’s greatest ever player, stunned a captivated audience in Monaco as he accepted the UEFA President’s Award with a speech which was lapped up on social media like seagulls circling Blackpool Prom waiting on abandoned chips. Of course, seagulls have been used in King Eric’s speeches before but we’ll come to that later.
Cantona, looking like he’d come to the ceremony straight from milking the cows with an unkempt beard and flat cap, left an audience including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi with their jaws on the floor as his speech referenced King Lear, science and eternal life.
“As flies to wanton boys we are for the gods, they kill us for their sport," he said. “Soon the science will not only be able to slow down the ageing of the cells, soon the science will fix the cells to the state and so we will become eternal.
"Only accidents, crimes, wars, will still kill us but unfortunately, crimes, wars, will multiply. I love football. Thank you."
Some felt Cantona’s speech was a barbed reference at the extremely well-paid footballers in the room while others suggested the speech was little more than an eccentric footballer being wilfully obscure.
In 1995, Cantona delivered a speech which would become part of football folklore. After winning an appeal against a prison sentence for launching a kung-fu kick on an abusive Crystal Palace fan.
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."
As with last night’s speech, it baffled and bemused.
After George Best's death in November 2005, Cantona paid tribute as only he could: "After his first training session in heaven, George Best, from the favourite right wing, turned the head of God who was filling in at left-back.
"I would love him to save me a place in his team, George Best that is, not God."
Since retiring from playing, Cantona has starred in films, published books of his sketches, made lager commercials and even sang “Football’s coming home” in his role as a Eurosport presenter during last year’s World Cup.
For a generation of Manchester United fans, Cantona can do anything he wants. A man who arrived at Old Trafford as the club went on a rollercoaster ride through the 1990s. Collar up, scoring ridiculous goals, his place in United’s history was long since cemented.
Eric Cantona, ladies and gentlemen ð