Nike Mercurial boots: Every version of the boot through the years

Nike Mercurial Vapor
(Image credit: PA)

The Nike Mercurial boot is one of the most influential pieces of footballing design of the 20th Century. 

This is the boot that embraced minimalism and asked the question that boot manufacturers continue to ask to this day: how can we get quicker? It began with go-faster grooves in the sides; Nike these days invest thousands in lab tests.

Over the years, these bad boys have been a by-word for pace. Speed merchants in their droves flocked to these beautiful boots like seagulls to chips, from Thierry Henry to Cristiano Ronaldo, and with the changing technologies available, these boots have adapted to become lighter over time. 

Which were your favourite pair from the archives? 

Nike Mercurial (1998)

Nike Mercurial boots (1998)

Nike Mercurial Vapor

(Image credit: PA)

The iconic shot of Ronaldo, silver boots round his neck - the same colour as his medal - probably helped launch this product as much as the performances he put in wearing them. 

These boots were originally designed to be an update on the Tiempo range, looking at how track spikes could inform a quicker boot for Ronny. A thinner plate, along with a KNG-100 synthetic upper, was added to the boot. A legend was born.

Nike Match Mercurial (2000)

Nike Match Mercurial (2000)

Nike Mercurial Vapor

(Image credit: PA)

By Euro 2000, the Mercurial boots had seen a tweak. These boots were produced in copper colour and were part of what Nike labelled "the Alpha Project era", along with the Mercurial R9, Air Zoom Italia, Match Mercurial, and Air Zoom Mercurial.

Most notably, this is where the Mercurial heel reinforcements began. Nearly every boot after this one would have a recognisable design to protect the heel. 

Nike Mercurial Vapor (2002)

Nike Mercurial Vapor (2002)

Nike Mercurial Vapor

(Image credit: PA)

The Vapor looked to supercars for where it could improve on its predecessor. What Nike came up with was a boot like no other: it looked like it was made of fibre-glass rather than leather. It had added comfort but still retained the lightness and speed of previous versions.

This one came in a variety of colours. Black, bronze and silver/red versions were popular, while R9 had a silver/volt pair for the 2002 World Cup. 

Nike Mercurial Vapor II (2004)

Nike Mercurial Vapor II (2004)

Nike Mercurial Vapor

(Image credit: PA)

Look! More grooves!

The Vapor evolved with its follow-up, keeping the same weight but improving comfort. From a design point of view, Nike went even more minimal, taking the colour accent of the heel away to make the Vapor IIs all one colour. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Figo wore these gold ones at Euro 2004, while Thierry Henry had red ones and blue ones depending on whether Arsenal were home or away, during the unbeaten season. 

Nike Mercurial Vapor III (2006)

Nike Mercurial Vapor III (2006)

Nike Mercurial Vapor

(Image credit: PA)

With Teijin microfiber to conform and adjust to the foot shape, a reimagined heel and a two-piece plate with direct injection studs, the third version of the Vapors was a big one, despite the design not changing all that much.

The heel was a different colour again, with Ronaldo getting his own Brazil-coloured pair for the 2006 World Cup. The white/gold version is still the classic - that's the one Henry wore when he motored away from Real Madrid defenders in the Bernabeu. 

Nike Mercurial Vapor IV (2008)

Nike Mercurial Vapor IV (2008)

Nike Mercurial Vapor

(Image credit: PA)

By 2008, Nike had shifted the swoosh, placing it over the toes slightly for what would become a distinctive look for the Vapor. These boots were part of Nike's commitment to revolutionising the look and feel of the company's icons at the time - still, that's no excuse for giving Nicklas Bendtner these pink monstrosities. 

Purists hated Nike by now. There were citron-coloured versions available, the chassis was glass fibre and Nike was fully on its mission to get faster, lighter, bolder and better than ever. 

Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly (2009)

Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly (2009)

Nike Mercurial Vapor

(Image credit: PA)

A boot so groundbreaking it needed a whole new name, the Superfly melded ultra-thin Teijin skin exterior and Flywire threads for an even more technologically-stacked boot than ever before. It was more flexible than ever, too.

New lightweight traction cleats and a carbon fiber chassis cut down the weight further. There was a seven-layer carbon outsole too - tougher than ever - as there were those who claimed the boot was now dangerously thin.

Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly II (2010)

Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly II (2010)

Nike Mercurial Vapor

(Image credit: PA)

Look at us in the eyes and tell us you don't still have the images of Cristiano Ronaldo from Nike's 'Write the Future' ad fresh in your mind, after seeing these?

The 2010 versions of the Vapor were an absolute triumph, complete with a now-legendary colourway, redesign of the heel and NIKE SENSE technology. The studs even extended and retracted by millimeters based on pressure and ground conditions. These didn't just look cool as hell, they were unbelievably clever.