The French cult legend will be bestowed with the honour for his contributions to both football and charity work with a ceremony in Monaco this week
Manchester United legend Eric Cantona will receive the 2019 UEFA President’s Award for his achievements both on and off the pitch during an illustrious career, the sport’s European governing body announced today.
The Frenchman, who had the honour of winning both the final First Division title with Leeds United and the inaugural Premier League trophy with the Red Devils, has been recognised for putting “his heart and soul into supporting the causes he believes in”.
The 53-year-old, who lifted 14 honours across a 14-year-career never short on drama, was described as a “man who refuses compromise” by UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, who paid tribute in a statement.
“This award not only recognises his career as a player of the highest calibre, but also honours him for the person he is – a man who refuses compromise, who stands up for his values, who speaks his mind and in particular, puts his heart and his soul into supporting the causes he believes in,” he wrote.
Cantona will be handed the award in Monaco this Thursday during the draw for the Champions League group stage, and follows in the footsteps of other former Red Devils stars such as Sir Bobby Charlton and David Beckham.
Most fondly remembered for his spell at Old Trafford, whom he joined from rivals Leeds, he won four Premier League titles in all and scored 64 goals in 143 games for the club under Sir Alex Ferguson.
He unexpectedly announced his retirement in 1997 and transitioned into acting, where he was a member of the acclaimed ensemble in the Academy Award-nominated historical drama Elizabeth.
He has also forged a successful second career in beach soccer, winning the Beach Soccer World Cup with France in Brazil in 2005, but it is his charitable work for which he has won subsequent respect in the two decades since he departed the Theatre of Dreams.
A supporter of the Common Goal initiative set up by Juan Mata, which funds high-impact football charities worldwide, he contributes one per cent of his salary to the project.
In 2012, he sought to highlight the work of the homeless charity Emmaus in his home country, by attempting to gather the 500 signatures required to bid for the French presidential election.