Eric Cantona the king of Premier League foreign pioneers

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Football News

On Wednesday 25 November 1992, Sir Alex Ferguson met his chairman, Martin Edwards, to discuss prospective Manchester United transfer targets.

During the meeting, the Old Trafford chief received a phone call from Leeds United's managing director Bill Fotherby, who was inquiring about the possibility of signing Red Devils defender Dennis Irwin.

Leeds' approach was immediately dismissed by Edwards, but the piece of business completed in the hours that followed is, to this day, one of the most significant signings ever made by the club, and arguably in the Premier League's entire history.

The £1.2million capture of Eric Cantona catalysed Manchester United into the force that they are today. Elevating his team-mates to a new level of performance, Ferguson described him as "the can-opener".

At the time, however, many felt the United boss had opened a can of worms - with the flamboyant Frenchman's reputation for flitting from club to club, staying nowhere very long, and generally causing trouble. However, his impact was undeniable.

Cantona's on-field imagination made a group of experienced, hardened players think about the game differently, to try to express themselves in ways they would not have previously considered.

"If ever there was one player, anywhere in the world, that was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona," said Ferguson. "He swaggered in, stuck his chest out, raised his head and surveyed everything as though he were asking: 'I'm Cantona. How big are you? Are you big enough for me?'"

With Cantona at the club, United won four titles in five years and provided Ferguson with the foundation upon which his job, and further great United teams have been built.

On the 20-year anniversary of the flamboyant Frenchman's arrival, GiveMeFootball pays tribute to English football's other most notable innovators, top-flight trendsetters and Premier League pioneers.


Thierry Henry | Arsenal | 1999-2007

Thierry Henry is Arsenal's all-time leading goal scorer with 228 goals. During his eight years at the club between 1999 and 2007 he won two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, the Premier League 'Golden Boot' on four occasions and the PFA Player of the Year twice.

Fittingly, on 7 May 2006, the Frenchman scored the last ever goal at Highbury, before the Gunners completed their move to the Emirates Stadium.

It was under the tutelage of his compatriot Arsene Wenger, that Henry made his name as a world-class footballer. Despite initially struggling to settle in England, he emerged as Arsenal's top goal-scorer for almost every season of his tenure there, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest striker's ever to grace the Premier League.

Didier Drogba | Chelsea | 2004-12

Didier Drogba's Chelsea exit in May marked not just the end of an era at Stamford Bridge, but a fairytale too.

The former Marseille striker arrived in west London as an unknown quantity in the Premier League, but right from his very first goal at Crystal Palace, to his final act of converting the winning penalty in the Champions League final in Munich, he has left fans from all corners of football with plenty of memories.

With three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and one European Cup, during his eight-year stay in England, the Ivorian international is one of Chelsea's most celebrated foreign imports, and left as the club's fourth highest goalscorer of all-time with 157 goals.


Vincent Kompany | Manchester City | 2008-present

Vincent Kompany has established himself as an integral part of the Manchester City squad, and is one of the bargain buys of the revolutionised Etihad Stadium era, blossoming into one of - if not - the best Premier League centre-backs in the modern era.

After arriving in England in from Anderlecht via Hamburg in 2008, the Belgian international has gone from strength to strength, and after being handed the captain's armband by Roberto Mancini in 2011/12, Kompany led City to their first league title in 44 years.

The 26-year-old has been included in the Premier League Team of the Year for two seasons in a row in 2011 and 2012, and won the Premier League Player of the Season in 2012.

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