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The Complete Nike Mercurial Timeline – A tale of the two Ronaldo’s

The Complete Nike Mercurial Timeline – A tale of the two Ronaldo’s

Mon, Jun 15, 20

The Complete Nike Mercurial Timeline – A tale of the two Ronaldo’s

The late 90s was a golden time for football. The Premier League was starting to boom and slowly take over the football landscape with the influx of foreign players adding a new flavour to the English game. Serie A was like watching Champions League football every single weekend and the National team scene was magical with France 98 being a memorable World Cup for many reasons.

This period also brought about arguably the most significant football boot that continues to this day, the Nike Mercurial; a silo which is more popular today than ever and is worn by the best and most influential players around the world.

With one of the biggest releases in the Mercurial line arriving this Wednesday 17/6, we thought we would take you through the history of the Nike Mercurial range from start to finish and whether you’re a fan of the Mercurial Vapor or Superfly, this one is sure to bring back some nostalgia, especially as we focus on the international careers of the two Ronaldo’s throughout to give us some context.

Major international tournaments are the perfect time for big brand moments of which Mercurial has had a heap! First let’s go back to 1997. France 98 was around the corner and Nike wanted to make a statement at the major tournament watched by millions of people around the globe. Plans were in place to make waves with a game changing boot, but first they needed to finalise the product that was going to take the world by storm.

1998 – Nike Mercurial.

The working title for the debut Mercurial Vapor was the Tiempo Ultra-Light, surprising huh? Nike originally decided that they were going to just take the much loved Tiempo silo and create a lighter version with a heavy emphasis on speed. The Swoosh called up Il Fenomeno, the OG Brazilian Ronaldo, to be the man to test out this ground-breaking product out before it was released to the public.

The Nike Mercurial was engineered with Ronaldo’s velocity in mind. The thought was that if it worked for Ronaldo, who was so insanely talented and gifted on the ball, it was going to work for everyone watching him in his peak at this time. The term Mercurial and Ronaldo went hand in hand. It was a match made in heaven.

Why was this boot so ground-breaking? It introduced a synthetic leather upper called KNG-100 for the first time on a football boot. The soleplate was also around half the thickness of the Tiempo which resulted in a more lightweight construction and feel. The debut model weighed in at an impressive 250g and featured an ahead-of-its-time sticky coating on the upper which helped improved touch on the ball.

Ronaldo

The first version which was released to the public came in a traditional black colourway, then to take things up a notch Nike released the iconic silver/blue/yellow version which Ronaldo wore at the World Cup in France. We say this with complete sincerity… that 98 Ronaldo colourway is easily one of our favourites of all time.

Ronaldo scored 4 goals at the tournament but unfortunately came up short in the final against Zidane’s French side spurred on by home support. Lucky for the French was the fact that Ronaldo was severely unwell before the Final, to the point it was almost criminal he took part in the game, as we now know that he likely suffered a mini heart attack before the game. Crazy.

Who can forget the image of Ronaldo with the boots around his neck at full time? Marketing genius.

1999 – Nike Mercurial II.

With Mercurial off to a very strong start Nike continued to make improvements to the next model coming in 1999, the Mercurial 2, by bringing the total weight of the boots down by 10g resulting in a total of 240g.

A year after the disappointment in Paris, Ronaldo helped Brazil take out their second straight Copa America title in Paraguay. The victory being their 6th Copa America title. Talk about football powerhouse! 

Brazil won all their games at the tournament, finishing with the final against Uruguay which ended 3-0 after Rivaldo, who was awarded player of the tournament, opened scoring with a header and top class second goal before Ronaldo lashed home an unstoppable half volley with his left foot to seal the 3-0 victory.

Both Ronaldo and Rivaldo ended the tournament top scorers with 5 goals apiece.

2000 – Nike Match Mercurial.

After the success in the late 90’s Nike stepped things up a notch with their next model early in 2000, the Nike Match Mercurial, which saw the weight of boots brought down even further to 230g. The design was based on the Mercurial R9 but offered a thinner KNG-100 upper this time around. The sticky coating from the debut model returned but this time it was rearranged around the boot with the intention being a more even grip across the upper.

One of the other main changes came with a new Speedtrack soleplate that was more aggressive than it’s predecessor.

2002 – Nike Mercurial Vapor I.

On the back of Mercurial’s success so far Nike looked at 2002, another important World Cup year, as another moment to improve and stun the world when everyone was watching.

This brought about the Mercurial Vapor I. Every single gram of weight was scrutinised on the Vapor I as Nike wanted to blow consumers away with how light the boots were. When we say every gram, we mean every gram as well. Literally every material that went into the boots was weighed from the glue to stitching thread. If a piece of material weighed more than 0 grams and didn’t need to be there it was gone faster than Ronaldo on the end of a through ball.

The result of such consideration was a total weight of just 190g, unlike anything we had seen before. One of the main new features that played a role in keeping the weight down was the impressive NikeSKIN one-piece upper that is still aesthetically relevant to this day.

A new anatomical feature created around the natural shape of the foot relieved pressure and brought the player closer to the boots soleplate as well, bringing that feeling of almost playing barefoot to life.

Now back to R9. 4 years after his disappointment in France but encouraged by dominance at the Copa America, Ronaldo laced up Vapor I and lit up the World Cup in Korea/Japan, helping Brazil win while also taking out the Golden Boot and being included in the All-Star team. A remarkable effort when you consider the significant injuries he had suffered in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

The Vapor I was the birth of the Vapor as we know it, and just looking at them you can see how well these stood the test of time and how right Nike got things from the beginning.

2004 – Nike Mercurial Vapor II.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. 2004 brought about the second incarnation of Vapor, which was essentially the same as the Vapor I aside from some neat graphic design updates. The reason? Vapor I was such a smashing success.

The slight changes to the Vapor II included a higher heel tab, extra ankle cushioning and more sturdy and stable upper material which resulted in a more comfortable fit overall, which is what Nike wanted to realize as their goal here; striving to create a perfect foot-to-ground feel.

Nike also kept the same soleplate to keep the same feeling through the sole as there wasn’t much point in changing an iconic boot.

EURO 2004 saw our second Ronaldo, Cristiano, burst onto the international scene at his first major tournament and his flamboyant early career meant everyone’s eyes were on him.

Cristiano Ronaldo

With an expectant home crowd behind them, Portugal came up just short losing to Greece in the Final in one of the most surprising results of all time. No one gave Greece a shot at the start of the tournament. While it wasn’t the international success he craved early, Cristiano did finish in the team of the tournament having provided two assists and scoring two goals.

Those who saw him play in those early stages of his career with such flair and confidence knew he was going to be something very, very, special and with his involvement international success wasn’t going to be far away for Portugal, much like Ronaldo for Brazil.

Nike having both Ronaldo’s at their disposal was proving to be a massive win for the brand.

2006 – Nike Mercurial Vapor III.

Another World Cup year, another time for Nike to make some more substantial changes to bring more heat to the Mercurial line. The Vapor III introduced a Teijin microfiber upper that was engineered to conform and adjust to the foot’s shape. The upper was thicker and overall, the boot was slightly wider and had a higher toe box than the previous versions.

There was also a carbon insert in the outsole to make it stiffer and more stable and once you broke the boots in, they were 196g of Mercurial magic.

At the 2006 World Cup there was a wave of expectation surrounding the Seleção given their much-publicized attacking quartet of Adriano, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Ronaldo were flying.

Ronaldo got off to a slow start in Vapor III (literally given he definitely looked heavily out of shape at the tournament) but then scored 2 goals in the final group game against Japan and then another against Ghana in the Round of 16, taking his total to 15 World Cup goals.

Brazil were knocked out by eventual finalists France and Ronaldo ended the campaign as the third top scorer. It wasn’t the World Cup swansong Brazil wanted, but he definitely made his mark.

2007 – Nike Mercurial 10th Anniversary Edition.

10 years of goals. 10 years of speed. In late 2007, Nike released a limited edition tenth anniversary version of the Mercurial Vapor, featuring the latest upgrades to technology mixed with the original Mercurial upper from the 1998 design.

These boots featured in an advert with the Brazilian star Ronaldo, where he re-enacted many of his past goals, which he scored wearing the famous Mercurial Vapor boots.

Check it out below.

2008 – Nike Mercurial Vapor SL.

“Make something outrageous.” When footwear designer Mark Parker became CEO of Nike in January 2006, he challenged the whole design team to create something outrageous with no design limitations and budget constraints. He invited his team to tear things up and re-imagine innovation in performance footwear and the result for Mercurial was something special.

Parker’s team came up with the incredible Nike Mercurial Vapor SL, made from carbon fiber which to this day remains a key component in Nike’s designs. If the Vapor line was already doing well globally, the SL was in the exotic sports car x rock and roll must-have purchase everyone around the world loved. You still look at them now and want them. Nike absolutely nailed the brief and execution and we haven’t even mentioned yet that they weighed in at just 185g. 

With the upper crafted in Italy, the plate engineered in Germany, and the outsole built in South Korea, the Mercurial SL was truly a product of the global game. It was fitting that it was only seen on such a global event – the 2008 Champions League Final and worn Cristiano who was victorious on the night.

One final point on the SL was how rare they were. Nike only made 2008 FG pairs and 500 SG pairs. If you have a pair let us know!

2008 – Nike Mercurial Vapor IV.

Nike followed up the mind-blowing Mercurial Vapor SL release with the Mercurial Vapor IV which came in two options. The IV and the IV SL.

Both boots had many of the same features from the previous model with one of the main changes you can see straight away being the Teijin upper covering the laces to offer an uninterrupted shooting surface and an aerodynamic look.

The SL was the pick of the two boots because Nike used the carbon fiber plate on this model as opposed to the IV.

One thing is for sure the boots definitely look FAST. Orange peel and citron colourways, some of the boldest ever seen on pitch, really brought more attention to these boots.

2008 was a big year for Cristiano. Having taken on the captain’s armband for Portugal, and given the iconic number 7 shirt, this was his moment to take his side to a new level.

It wasn’t his best tournament from a goals point of view, with only one scored at the tournament but some handy assists enough to get Portugal through to the knockouts.

Unfortunately for the Portuguese they came up short in the quarter-finals against eventual finalist Germany.  

2009 – Nike Mercurial Superfly I.

Once again it was time for Nike to change the game and they did it by introducing the Mercurial Superfly I, the lightest, fastest Nike boot at the time weighing just 185g and introduced the super thin Flywire technology for the first time.

The new lightweight traction and super responsive soleplate and carbon fiber chassis shaved precious weight from the boot, and a seven-layer carbon outsole delivered maximum resilience, flexibility and stability. Nike impressively kept the upper very thin even with the number of layers increasing.

The visible Flywire gave the Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly a high-tech aesthetic that championed the boot’s components.

2009 – Nike Mercurial Vapor V.

Just because the Mercurial Superfly I had arrived didn’t mean Vapor would be forgotten about. 2009 also was the year the Mercurial Vapor V arrived. The V remained quite similar to the IV with Flywire cables the main edition to the inside of the boot.

Not much tech was added to the V with 2010 shaping up to be somewhat of a change of direction.

2010 – Nike Mercurial Superfly II

World Cup year, you know the drill. Time to make noise. Nike used the first African World Cup in 2010 as inspiration for the Superfly II, taking cues from the African cheetah. The focus now wasn’t solely on speed but rather a question of traction which for Nike was a big change given how much of an emphasis speed had been for over 10 years.

Nike Mercurial Safari Pack

Nike took insights from Cristiano Ronaldo to decide on the Superfly II incorporating Nike SENSE technology. In short, these were innovative studs because they extended and retracted by millimetres based on the pressure applied to the sole and the ground conditions. The idea here was the the boots would provide a base for optimum speed and stability in all directions.

The boot also received a thicker upper than the Superfly I and also included more Flywire cabling.

For the World Cup showpiece, the Superfly II was given and Elite Series make up, where speed was increased via the reduction of weight seen in the form of a carbon fiber plate.

Cristiano went into the tournament on the back of an international goal drought which ended after he scored in a 7-0 route of North Korea in the Group Stage. He was named man of the match in all 3 games before Portugal’s World Cup ended with a 1-0 loss against eventual champions Spain in the round of 16. Another frustration for the man who thought he was edging closer to international success. Another 2 years he would have to wait for another crack at the Euros.

2010 – Nike Mercurial Vapor VI.

The Mercurial Vapor VI again kept things pretty clean and unchanged from it’s previous model. The boot got a premium looking new glass fiber outsole but with added focus to the new Superfly range changes and updates were kept quite minimal for the Vapor this time around.

2011 – Nike Mercurial Superfly III

The Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly III aimed to maximize every single chance a player has to do something special on the pitch by eliminating the changes of any potential slips or stumbles that an opposing player can pounce on in an instant. Firm footing was the focus here so that traction was at it’s most effective.

Toe-off traction reduced the risk of slipping while a tri-blade configuration maximized speed during directional changes. The toe box was also lower to help stability.

2011 – Nike Mercurial Vapor VII.

Nike decided to remove the lace cover on the Mercurial Vapor VII and provide a softer upper to previous models. 

The change of focus from speed to traction resulted in what some people thought were boots that were a touch too heavy.

Perhaps Nike thought they may have been losing their way a little bit with the Vapor silo, given what was to come next...

2012 – Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII.

Nike went back to its roots in 2012 with the Mercurial Vapor VIII. With a decision to put Superfly on hold, all focus was once again on Vapor… and speed.

The Vapor VIII received a flexible double fiberglass outsole which looked absolutely stunning, matched with a new stud configuration with only two studs on the heel which ensured fast in, fast out ground penetration to boost acceleration.


Cristiano RonaldoThe mango launch colourway brought this whole package to life on pitch amazingly well, with another young player, Neymar, starting to bring attention to this silo once again.The super soft and thin upper once again brought that bare foot sensation fans craved. The upper also had a suede like finish that felt grippy on the ball and the best part? The boots once again dropped weight and came in at just 185g.

This was Nike coming full circle, remembering what the Vapor stood for and absolutely smashing it out of the park.

Back to the pitch and it was another chance for Cristiano to win the Euros as captain of Portugal. It was never going to be easy however, as Portugal were drawn in the group of death alongside the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.

In the crucial last group stage game against the Dutch, Cristiano scored both goals in the 2-1 which ensured his side advanced to the knockout phase in second position in their group after a very tight round of games. It was an impressive turn of fate after losing the first game to Germany and just sneaking over the line against Denmark with a winner at the death in a 3-2 win.

In the quarter-final against the Czech Republic he scored a header which was the only goal of the game, but at the next hurdle against rivals Spain in the semi-finals Portugal were eliminated in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw.

Another disappointment and moreso given Cristiano received a lot of criticism for not taking a penalty against Spain. All motivation that made what was coming 4 years later ever so sweeter.

2013 – Nike Mercurial Vapor IX.

The Mercurial Vapor IX took all the good things from the VIII but added a dimple effect to the upper in an attempt at giving this incarnation more grip than its predecessor. This Vapor also featured ACC (All Conditions Control) for consistent feel in wet and dry conditions.

Fans were really treated in 2013 with the boot also releasing in the outstanding looking white CR7 leather colourway and a 15th Anniversary of Mercurial Edition which once again featured the R9 colourway that still gets your heart pounding – even when you’re 2500 words deep into this article!

2014 – Nike Mercurial Superfly IV.

The Superfly returned for the World Cup year of 2014 and this time around it looked very different. Nike introduced a fully Flyknit upper, a high cut Dynamic Fit Collar and Brio cables, knitted directly into the upper, which locked the foot to the boot's full-length carbon fiber plate for efficient transfer of power through the ground

There were more studs added to the boots’ heel to increase stability as well, not forgetting their focus on speed and traction.

2014 – Nike Mercurial Vapor X

With Superfly back and the focus for 2014, the Mercurial Vapor X flew under the radar somewhat from a hype point of view. Once again that didn’t take away from how good it performed for fans of the silo.

The one-piece tongue construction and compressed nylon outsole were added features that resulted in a 175g boot.

Cristiano Ronaldo

At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil Cristiano had a major injury cloud surrounding as he was suffering from patellar tendinitis and a related thigh injury, potentially risking his career. Even though he was risking further injury, he laid it all on the line for his national team in his quest for international glory.

Just like the Euros 2 years earlier, Portugal lined up against Germany in the first group game but unlike the 1-0 loss that time, this time around they were decimated 4-0 by an inspired Germany side that ended up going on to win the competition.

Portugal never recovered from the drubbing as they stumbled in the second game against the USA needing an injury time equaliser to get a draw, before beating Ghana 2-1, Cristiano getting the winner in the 80th minute, which came too late in the tournament for the Portuguese to make it to the knockout stages.

2016 – Nike Mercurial Superfly V

For the Mercurial Superfly V, designers eliminated the gap that previously existed underfoot by using a new anatomical plate that mapped the natural contours of the foot. Nike continued with the one-piece Flyknit Dynamic Fit Collar and Brio cable combination upper but also added knitted speed grips for better grip on the ball.

The big introduction for the V was the all new anatomical soleplate which allowed your foot to sink into the soleplate, which was 40-percent lighter than the IV’s soleplate. The total weight came to an impressive 191g overall.

2016 - Nike Mercurial Vapor XI

The Mercurial Vapor XI still makes us go “wow.” Nike made this version with the thinnest torsion upper ever seen on the model with synthetic speed grips to give you better grip and control on the ball. When these updates were combined with the new nylon anatomical soleplate from the Superfly, this one was hell of a boot.

The weight? A staggering 167g.

Cristiano Ronaldo

2016 was one of the biggest years for Cristiano, taking out the EURO 2016 tournament with Portugal in his signature Mercurial Superfly V Chapter 5: Cut to Brilliance model boots.  He scored 3 goals in the tournament as captain and even though he was injured after 25 minutes in the Final he still lifted the trophy in celebration of his country's first-ever triumph in a major tournament, which he regards as one of the most important moments in his career.

After many setbacks and going close to tasting success, this win against France put the icing on a career that was already lit up with so much success. It was a deserved win for Cristiano when you consider he became the first player to participate in three European Championship semi-finals. Proof that when he’s in the side, he gives you every chance of success on the biggest stage.

2017 – Nike Flyknit Ultra

Nike treated 2017 as a teaser hype year before the massive updates to the Mercurial models we’re about to touch on in 2018. What came? The crazy low-cut Flyknit Ultra.

While technically this wasn’t called a Mercurial, it sure was in every sense. This was essentially a low-cut vapor model made entirely of a knitted Flyknit upper with hardened speed grips for grip on the ball.

The gradual shifting NikeSkin coating was firm at the base for stability and gradually got softer and thinner at the top for more comfort and better fit. This design allowed players with a wide foot to be able to comfortably wear a silo they struggled to in the past.

The Vapor XI soleplate was continued on the Ultra as well which meant overall this was one of the best Vapors (yes even if it’s called the Ultra) ever made. The black with gold colourway also makes this a standout… one for boot collectors that’s for sure.

2018 – Nike Mercurial Superfly and Vapor 360

The Russian World Cup in 2018 is the last major tournament we get to focus on. In February of that year Nike launched one of our favourite releases we’ve had at Ultra Football – the Mercurial Superfly and Vapor 360’s. This being the first time the Superfly and the Vapor were the same boot apart from the Superfly having a higher dynamic fit collar.

Nike Mercurial 360

The 360 focused on FIT: The foundation of fast, with the notion being that no matter how innovative a pair of boots may be, if the fit isn’t right, speed can be compromised.

The Mercurial Superfly 360 and Mercurial Vapor 360 wrap the entire foot in Nike Flyknit for the first time which allowed the innovation to hug the foot tight and eliminate any gaps.

Another focus was traction, with precisely placed studs in the forefront and heel inspired by the agile cheetah. The reimagined soleplate came through with a stunning colourway mixed with that orange upper, with the minimalist approach to the sole referring to the cheetah’s paw. Cristiano called the boots the “best boots ever” and it’s not hard to agree.

Lacing up the Superfly 360’s in Russia, Cristiano became the oldest player ever to score a hat-trick in a World Cup match in Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Spain in their opening match. Cristiano opened the scoring with a penalty, followed up with a goal from outside the box with the aid of some poor goalkeeping, before tying the game at 3-3 in the final minutes with an exquisite free kick.

In the second game against Morocco he scored a thumping header to secure all 3 points before their draw with Iran in the final game secured knockout stage qualification where they would meet Uruguay. 

2 brilliant goals from Edinson Cavani broke Portuguese hearts in Russia as they lost 2-1, which could mean we never see Cristiano win the World Cup given he’s reaching the twilight of his career. With the way he looks after his body and his drive for success we wouldn’t rule out him starring at the 2022 World Cup though. Who would bet against him?

2019 – Mercurial 360

The 2018 Mercurial 360 is one of the most loved Nike boots of all time. Of all the professional players who wore it, the overwhelming rank was 10/10 with the lowest score being one lonely 8. That is unbelievably good.

Nike New Lights Pack

With that in mind, the Nike design team really didn’t need to make many changes for the 2019 version, the result was a Mercurial with improvements over its predecessor in upper and plate technologies, as well as an upgraded graphic design.

The structure of the knit upper changes slightly to lessen stiffness of the material which added to comfort with the inclusion of ACC preventing the boot from being porous.

The new Aerotrak soleplate delivered more snap than the 2018 version and was intentionally minimalist, leaving only what is truly needed which brought the weight down to 200 grams overall.

The graphics changed somewhat significantly with the logo dipping down to the studs and continuing underfoot which can be done thanks to the Flyknit 360’s construction. You’ll also notice the Just Do It wording was added to the boot as well as the shortened “Merc” logo on the heel. The New Lights pack design was an absolute stunner. 

2020 – ?

2020 was meant to be the chance for Cristiano to try and take out back-to-back European Championships after the success in 2016. A major international tournament also meant another chance for Nike to create a massive buzz yet again.

Sadly, this year we won’t get to see the Euros which have been postponed until 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. One thing we will get though is arriving this Wednesday 17/6 - the Mercurial Safari Pack. We won’t be able to see these on the international stage this year, but with Serie A returning this month at least we will get to see some on pitch action.

The Nike Mercurial CR7 Safari Pack will be available here from 5PM (AEST) Wednesday 17/7/20.

Nike Mercurial CR7 Safari Pack

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