WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) – Pro soccer legend Eric Cantona sued the New York Cosmos for $961,000, salary he says the team owed him when it fired him for punching out a paparazzo in London.
Cantona is credited with helping turn Manchester United into a world soccer power in the 1990s, and is known as “King Eric” by Manchester’s fans.
He sued the Cosmos on May 15 in Federal Court, claiming the team fired him as his director of soccer to duck the payments it owes him by contract.
Cantona was arrested last year after he punched a paparazzo in the face outside a London pub. The Cosmos quickly fired him, saying in its termination letter that “Mr. Cantona’s actions have brought the New York Cosmos and its brand into material disrepute.”
Cantona calls his firing “uncaused, unjustified and unacceptable,” in the lawsuit, “just an excuse to try to get out of the contract that the club was already not respecting for months.”
Cantona signed a multimillion-dollar contract to become the director of soccer for the Cosmos in 2011. As part of his deal, he was also entitled to a 4 percent equity stake in the club if the team was admitted into Major League Soccer. His 27-page consulting agreement with the team is attached as an exhibit to the 15-page lawsuit.
When he was arrested for flattening the paparazzo, Cantona claims, the Cosmos owed him $488,000. He says it took six months for the team to settle that debt, on which they still owe interest. And he says they never paid him the 4 percent stake in the team.
He claims that the Cosmos also owe co-plaintiffs Olympica Sports Management and the Joel Cantona Organisation £80,000 of the £400,000 in management and representation fees they are owed under his contract with the Cosmos.
The French footballer led Manchester United to four Premiere League championships before he retired from the playing field in 1997.
Known for his fiery temper, Cantona was arrested and convicted in 1995 after attacking a fan with a “kung-fu” kick. Cantona followed that up with a bizarre statement that has become legend, despite its cryptic nature: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”
The Cosmos told Courthouse News in a statement: “Following his arrest in March 2014, the NY Cosmos terminated Mr. Cantona’s contract. “We have not yet reviewed the complaint so we have no further comment at this time.”
The Cosmos are represented by Dorsey & Whitney, Cantona by Michael Compo, of Miami Shores, Fla.
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