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Will Tidey - The legendary New York Cosmos turn to Cantona

Published: 20 Jan 2011 - 07:27:59

Pele, Eusabio, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Johan Neeskens. Just a few of legendary names who stepped out for the iconic New York Cosmos. It's a collective that makes David Beckham's turn at LA Galaxy seem like a sideshow.

The Cosmos brought a new profile to soccer in America, and a new glitz to the game generally. They played at first Yankee Stadium, and then Giants Stadium, and wore a strip designed by Ralph Lauren.

Bankrolled by Warner Communications they won three titles in five years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and had the honour of giving Pele his final performance in a game against his former club Santos.

But eventually the money ran out. Warner sold to a consortium led by former player Giorgio Chinaglia, and they could no longer afford the kind of wages and transfer fees that had made the Cosmos the closest thing to the Harlem Globetrotters in football.

The 1984-85 season saw the Cosmos play their last game. A empire collapsed and those white shirts have been retired ever since. But the coolest team in history are planning a comeback.

A group of investors have purchased the naming rights and Pele has returned in the role of honorary president. Paul Kemsley, former vice-chairman of Tottenham, is also involved. And it turned out yesterday, Eric Cantona will be part of the revolution too.

The 44-year-old, who walked away from football at 30 after leading Manchester United to a fourth title in five years in 1997, has been unveiled as the club's new director of soccer.

"I am very honoured to join the legendary New York Cosmos," he said. "It's a big project, a wonderful project. The Cosmos are very strong, beautifully made, with a great past. It's kind of a mix between football and art.

"I will do everything I can to help us first find our way to regain the No. 1 position in the United States, and then for us to become one of the best clubs in the world."

There's a long way to go. When I spoke to the Cosmos press office yesterday they confirmed there were currently no players on the payroll. A buy-in to the MLS would take at least two years to realise, so the earliest we can expect to see those white shirts in full competitive action is probably 2013.

But the likelihood is it will happen. The MLS have been looking to expand their 16-team roster and the Cosmos represent a marketing dream for all involved.

Perhaps it's a good thing, but this time they won't be able to spend so wildly. MLS teams are allowed three 'designated players', which roughly translated means three very expensive ones.

With star power on the pitch limited, it's obvious why they want to put a high-profile name like Cantona on the staff. The mercurial Frenchman is also representative of the counter-culture cool the Cosmos stood for in their heady halcyon days.

The club website met the announcement with a video of Cantona smoking a cigar. With him on board, you can be sure whatever happens next is going to be worth watching.

Maybe it wasn't the Hollywood appeal of Beckham that the MLS needed after all.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey

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