Cantona, who once played for Manchester United and was known to English fans as ‘King Eric’, has now set his sights on becoming ‘President Eric’, it has been reported.

The footballer-turned-actor has written to 50 French mayors asking for signatures to back up his bid, according to French newspaper Liberation.

Cantona has voiced strong political opinions before, once calling on all French nationals to withdraw cash from banks on the same day, with the aim of bringing the banking system to its knees.

More recently, Cantona has expressed anger about poverty and poor housing in his native country. It has been suggested that his real aim in trying to secure a bid for French presidency may be to draw attention to these issues.

In his letter to the 50 elected officials, Cantona said that he felt compelled to speak up for those less well off than himself, saying he feels “a sense of my responsibility”.

Speaking to Liberation, Cantona said “the housing issue as it seems to me to be essential and concerns tens of millions of people”.

“I had to act at a time when I was likely to be heard,” he added.

As a  footballer Cantona was famous for his temper and colourful remarks. While playing for Manchester United in 1995 he leapt into the stands to deal a “Kung Fu” kick to a fan who was shouting racist abuse.

Refusing to repent, Cantona later said of the incident: “My best moment? I have a lot of good moments but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan.”