Former Manchester United and France star Eric Cantona has said he is hoping to develop a team at New York Cosmos that will take the Major League Soccer title as well as provide the basis for a US World Cup-winning side.
The 46-year-old, who won four titles in five years with the Old Trafford club, was appointed director of soccer at the Cosmos last year and told BBC television that his aim was to make the club “the best team in the US, in the world”.
“Our ambition is to have the best team in the country, with most of the players coming from the (youth) academy and help the country win the World Cup one day,” he said in a 25-minute interview, posted on bbc.co.uk.
Cantona, who moved to United in the first year of the Premier League in 1992 after helping Leeds United win the last English First Division title the previous season, retired from football in 1997.
Cosmos, the fabled team of the original North American Soccer League of the 1970s that counts Pele and Franz Beckenbauer among former players, secured his services in January last year as part of their bid to rejoin the Major League Soccer.
The club went out of business in 1985 but a newly formed Cosmos are set to re-enter the second-tier North American Soccer League next season.
Cantona, who will work closely with former US World Cup star Cobi Jones on all football-related matters, said the club and the Big Apple had revived his interest in the game he left to pursue other avenues and interest, including acting and politics.
Asked about his thoughts on English football, he said that the game had changed since he played, in particular the increase in television coverage, sponsorship and particularly money.
Cantona said he saw no problem for the players but worried about the effect on ordinary fans in terms of affordability.
“I think the FA (Football Association) or the Premiership or whoever sells the (television) rights should ask the club to reserve a quarter or half the stadium at normal price, average price so all these people can go to the game,” he added.
“The game is there because of these people.”
He also paid tribute to United manager Alex Ferguson, who has been at the club since 1992, calling him “one of the greatest of all time all around the world” from whom he had learnt a great deal.
But he said he did not look back at his achievements at the club or anywhere else, preferring instead to focus on the present and future.
“I played 45 times for France. We got two shirts every game. That’s 90 shirts. I don’t have even one. I don’t want to have these kind of things that keep me like a prisoner,” he added.
“We’re in New York with a big project. We all dream of winning things, creating things... It’s much better.”