In 1996 Nike and Brazil’s national team started a partnership, which in many ways has influenced Nike’s past, present and future. With great inspiration and admiration for a young world-beater by the name of Ronaldo, Nike developed a very special football boot, which would go on to become one of the most iconic silo’s in the world. Come with, when we take a journey from the first Mercurial in 1998 to the newest Superfly in 2014.
The World Cup in 1998 stands out in many peoples memory, mainly because of one man: Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, or just Ronaldo. Nike had already gotten to know the young phenomenon two years before, when they signed with the Brazilian national team – and when they saw him play, it was clear that he was going to redefine football all together.
With Ronaldo as the main source of inspiration Nike developed a football boot, which would first and foremost accommodate the fast paced side of the game. They switched out the traditional leather upper with a kangaroo leather-emulating material called KNG-100, which was both lighter and didn’t take in as much water as regular leather. The soleplate was changed to a far thinner and lighter sole, as well as the stud-configuration being changed to more conical studs, to ensure a more aggressive grip and increase acceleration. Furthermore the upper was given a sticky texture, to increase ball control. All in all the first Nike Mercurial was truly a revolution that changed the game rules for what one could do with a football boot.
13 generations in 16 years. That’s what we have seen so far from Nike’s Mercurial collection. The Mercurial concept builds on the idea of giving the fastest players in the game the best tools on their feet. Throughout the 13 generations Nike experimented with several different ideas, thoughts and sources of inspiration. In a constant hunt to reduce weight, Nike have added and removed several materials and it is today a rule, rather than an exception that a boot has to weigh less than 200 grams. See our large selection of Nike Mercurial boots right here.
The Mercurial family has included a number of the very biggest football players in the world, from the original Ronaldo, who started the entire journey, to Cristiano Ronaldo, who has continued the legacy. Through Nike’s journey plenty has happened and while the Mercurial started with a kangaroo leather-emulating upper, it has moved on to the advanced Teijin synthetic. The Japanese material was first used on a Mercurial in 2006, on the Mercurial Vapor III.
Two areas that have been central in Nike’s development of their Mercurial, but first and foremost was always explosive speed. This is something Nike have sought to achieve through reduced weight, but also the sole and stud-configurations have played a vital role. With Nike’s Superfly-collection, they also introduced a carbon-fibre soleplate, which was far more responsive and increased the power of your kick-off considerably. This combined with a constant evolution of their stud-systems, means that Nike have continuously pushed the boundaries and given better and better prerequisites for increased acceleration. This brought with it one of the most innovative and memorable configurations in the NikeSENSE studs that were made together with Cristiano Ronaldo and were used in 2010 on the Mercurial Vapor Superfly II.
Another area that Nike had great focus on when designing their Mercurial boots, is to give the desired explosiveness, without compromising on comfort. In the first couple of generations, this balance between speed and comfort often fell out in favour of quickness. Many struggled with blisters and it did hurt the Mercurial’s reputation. This has in the meantime been fixed, much thanks to work done of the heel counter. One of the best examples of Nike working on comfort, was the introduction of the Flywire technology on the first Superfly. It gave a unique fit, where the boots upper really wrapped itself around your foot to give a tight fit.
Ball feel was a third, albeit slightly less important, element of the Mercurial. In the latest couple of models the ball feel has however been on front seat at Nike and this can be seen with the introduction of All Conditions Control, which is a special technology that is incorporated into the upper and ensures a consistent touch in all weather conditions. Also SpeedControl saw the light of day on the ninth generation, which is a golfball like texture, that keeps the ball close to your feet.
Now we are in 2014 and have been introduced to a new innovation and equally revolutionising boot from the Mercurial family. The Mercurial Superfly IV is probably Nike’s most complete football boot, which covers all the central elements on a previously unseen scale. A Flyknit upper gives a unique barefoot feel, while the Dynamic Fit Collar gives the feeling of a boot and leg as one. The Brio-cables are built into the upper and function like the Flywire, while the carbonfibre still gives the best acceleration anywhere. The 13th Mercurial football boot is a perfect example of how far Nike have come in the last 16 years. It truly shows the journey Nike have been on, since they launched the first Mercurial in 1998.
When looking at the 13 Mercurial football boots, it is an impressive evolution Nike have been through. It is however apparent that Nike have had to overcome some challenges and experiments, before finding the winning formula. Of these 13 models, which has been your absolute favourite?