It was 1970 when the match football truly became an iconic collectable in the same breath as a a jersey or boots. Prior to that, the ball was often orange, heavy and not really thought of as being stylish - yet here was a black-and-white, 32-panel piece of art, kicked about by Brazilian geniuses.
The Adidas Telstar was named after a satellite that the ball looked like. When it was beamed onto our TV sets during that tournament, it captured the imagination. It’s since become the go-to standard icon of the sport.
We’ve come a long way since the Telstar (more on that ball later). Balls these days have fewer panels than ever - some of them aren’t even black and white at all. We’ve scoured through leagues and competitions to bring you the definitive list of what's getting a good kicking this season...
Bundesliga: Derbystar BL Brillant APS 2020
This season’s German top-flight uses a white, teal and pink ball that is apparently really easy to see and looks great under LED light.
The Derbystar Brillant APS 2020 has 3D structure on the outside to make it easier for keepers to grab, and the stability of how it travels in the air is apparently better than ever. But green? On a ball? We’re not sure - the whole point is that you see it against the grass...
Ligue 1: Uhlsport Elysia Uber Eats
Uhlsport aren’t the biggest player in either the boot, kit or ball market - nevertheless, they have the contract for the French division and we quite like this one.
What the Elysia lacks in its name it makes up for in some of its tech. It’s a 24-panel sphere that’s completely round - and our favourite aspect? It comes with thermobonding technology, which minimises the water absorption of the ball.
Sadly, we can't see it available anywhere in the UK. Though that might be because every time we Google it, we end up ordering takeaway.
UEFA Nations League: Adidas Nations League 2020/21
The Nations League this ball this season is almost identical to the World Cup ball of two years ago. That’s right - this is Adidas’s updated Telstar design from 50 years ago.
All that’s new for this one is that it incorporates the Nations League-style circles and the red, blue, green and yellow colours of the logo. It’s a lovely effort - though we’d rate it a little higher if we hadn’t seen essentially the same design in 2018, though.
La Liga: Puma Accelerar and Adrenalina
Puma have delivered different names for the two balls in the Spanish top flight this season – the Accelerar is the white ball, while Adrenalina is the winter version.
Both of these balls are subtle and intricate, though. There’s the nice addition of the La Liga logo’s ‘fan’ beneath the Puma cat - which you wouldn’t notice to begin with - while the lightning-like pattern is meant to signify the nerves in your body.
For our money, the red, blue and yellow trim on the Accelerar pips it.
Women's Super League: Mitre Delta Max
The ball that the Women’s Super League are using is a Mitre Delta Max - a classic from the back catalogue that has enhanced Hyperseam technology these days.
The black, red and white is a lovely combination and is probably the best-looking of all the Deltas available in 2020/21.
Sadly, the WSL design isn't actually on sale – but Delta Max ball itself is used across a number of competitions, and the FA Cup version is probably the closest in looks.
We've rounded up some of the best deals on Mitre Delta Max footballs in case you're not picky, though.
Championship, League One and League Two: Mitre Delta EFL
Mitre claim this ball has unrivalled accuracy, power and instant control. But all of that pales into insignificance looking at this stunning design.
This is about as stylish as Mitre have been - they’re legendary in British football for vintage ball designs, but this one is thoroughly modern and looks amazing. It’s almost enough to make Leeds United wish they’d stayed in the second tier a season longer…
Serie A: Nike Flight
Ever since the Nike Flight first landed in the summer, it’s been turning heads everywhere. The technology has been well-documented - those distinctive grooves may just be there for nerdy reasons, but they look fantastic aesthetically, too.
Serie A get their balls from Nike and, just like the Premier League, the American giants have provided a custom colour palette for this beauty. The yellow and blue with red touches looks awesome.
Premier League: Nike Flight
And now for that beautiful Premier League ball…
It’s already a classic. After designs were getting more and more convoluted, this was the one to strip it all back for a few months.
It looks great in action, and the yellow winter version is the best we've seen in years.
Champions League group stage: Adidas Finale 20 Pro
The only thing that could possibly top the Nike Flight is Adidas delivering another superb Champions League ball - and this season’s is an instant classic.
The Finale 20 features dark blue, turquoise and orange in one of the more minimal patterns that the Champions League ball has had of late - but it’s by no means dull. This was the match ball for the group stages of the competition.
Europa League: Molten UEFA Europa League 2020/21 Match Ball
Who among us hasn't dreamed of playing of Europe's secondary club competition?
We'll admit that although snappily titled, the Molten UEFA Europa League 2020/21 Match Ball doesn't exactly thrill us. As much as we love a football to remind us of an Exotic Solero, there truly is something of the away trip to LASK burned into this ball's DNA.
FA Cup: Mitre Delta Max FA
They get everywhere, the Mitre Delta Maxes. But of the many, many versions across all competitions this season, the FA Cup ball might be the nicest.
The red, black and grey gives an old-school, understated touch lacking from many of the current crop of balls.
Scottish Premiership and Football League: Mitre Delta Max SPFL
Yes, yes, another Mitre Delta Max. In all honesty, the best thing about this is that it is the only version that is only available in winter yellow. We can appreciate the expectation management there.
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