Former Liverpool boss Graeme Souness has revealed that he passed up the chance to take Eric Cantona to Anfield and prevent him from becoming a legend for arch-rivals Manchester United.
The enigmatic talent had burned his bridges in his native France following Liverpool’s clash with Auxerre in 1991.
Michel Platini, who was manager of Les Bleus at the time, informed Souness after the contest that he was looking to find Cantona a suitable stage on which to showcase his talent.
Clubs in England were sounded out, with Leeds eventually taking a calculated risk on the mercurial forward in January 1992 after he had previously had a trial spell at Sheffield Wednesday.
Cantona spent less than 12 months at Elland Road before being taken to Old Trafford, with five memorable seasons spent with the Red Devils as he helped Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to become the dominant force in English football.
Souness could have prevented that from happening, but the Scot has been left to reflect on what might have been.
He told Sky Sports: “I was manager of Liverpool and we played Auxerre in the Cup Winners’ Cup and we lost 2-0 away, we came back and beat them 3-0.
“After the game, Terry Littlewood, who used to look after the players’ lounge and my lounge, security-wise, knocked on my door and said there’s a pal outside, he’s a good friend of yours and he wants to speak to you.
“I said ‘who is it?’ and he said ‘it’s Michel Platini’. Not a close pal of mine, the only time I had come in contact with him was when I played against him when I was in Italy.
“He came in and said ‘I’ve got a player for you, he’s a real problem in France but he’s really talented and he’d be perfect for your club’. I said ‘look, Michel, I’m fighting fires here at the moment, I’m trying to get some people out of the door that are resisting, I’m fighting a dressing room here. The last thing I need is another controversial figure’.
“Eric of course then came over on trial with Sheffield Wednesday, then signed for Leeds and the rest is history. When he went to United, it was a young team and young players need someone like that on the pitch to look up to. I think Eric was certainly one of them.”
Cantona made 185 appearances for United, helping them to four Premier League titles and two FA Cup triumphs.
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