Ask any footballer currently playing why they wear Nike Mercurial boots and they’ll give you the same answer- Ronaldo.
Take Kylian Mbappe. At 19 you might think he’s too young to appreciate the genius of O Fenomeno tearing around the pitch laced in the latest Mercurial.
But, when asked where he gets his boot inspiration from, Mbappe said: “I remember Ronaldo at the 2006 World Cup, he had them in yellow and green.
“I remember them really well because I had the same pair. Ronaldo is a true inspiration for me and for any striker; I guess, it seems obvious.”
Mbappe’s team-mate Neymar shares that sentiment, saying: “Those were the boots everybody wanted, I wanted them too.”
But Ronaldo’s history with the Nike Mercurial goes back further than 2006.
In 1998 the first Nike Mercurial was built with Ronaldo in mind. He’d just finished a prolific first season at Inter Milan, scoring 34 goals in all competitions.
The boot was launched on football’s biggest stage as Ronaldo scored four times to guide Brazil to the ’98 World Cup final, although it was Zinedine Zidane and the Adidas Predator Accelerator that stole the show.
Two years later the Match Mercurial was born, with Ronaldo given his own Match Mercurial R9.
Unfortunately Ronaldo was seen all too briefly in the Match Mercurial, with injury robbing the Brazilian of the entire 2000/01 season.
Which made what happened next all the more special.
Heading into the 2002 World Cup Ronaldo had a new haircut and a new pair of Mercurial boots to wear.
The Mercurial Vapor was a thing of beauty and built for speed, making it a perfect fit for Ronaldo’s game.
He got rid of the demons from ’98 to inspire Brazil to a fifth World Cup victory, bouncing back from a potentially career-ending injury to pick up the Golden Boot with eight goals.
Fast forward to 2004.
Despite the emergence of a skinny Portuguese lad named Cristiano in Manchester, it was still Madrid’s Ronaldo that reigned supreme among the Galacticos.
So it was only right that he was served with a gold pair of Mercurial Vapor II to cement his status.
He’d finish 2004 as Spain’s top goalscorer, seeing off competition from Fernando Torres, David Villa and Samuel Eto’o, although Madrid’s brilliant but unbalanced side only had the Spanish Super Cup to show for his goals.
As was now customary, after another two years Nike dropped the latest Mercurial amidst much hype.
Ronaldo wore the Mercurial Vapor III at the 2006 World Cup, becoming the tournament’s record goalscorer despite Brazil only making the quarter-finals.
By now he was a slightly fading force, with Cristiano taking over as the world’s best Ronaldo.
A year after the World Cup he joined AC Milan, linking up with fellow Brazilians Dida, Cafu, Kaka, Serginho and Ricardo Oliveira.
By the time the Mercurial Vapor SL was dropped in 2008 Ronaldo was hardly playing in Europe.
The arrival of Alexandre Pato and Alberto Gilardino meant first-team chances were rare with Ronaldo starting just four league games.
Another knee injury, suffered against Livorno in February and wearing a vintage pair of Mercurial boots rather than the Vapor SL, put his career in doubt once again.
So Ronaldo moved to Corinthians to see out his playing days, at which point he’d swapped Mercurial boots for the Nike Tiempo.
But that wasn’t the end of his love affair with the Nike Mercurial.
When Nike launched the 20th anniversary ‘What The Mercurial?’ there was only one man chosen to be the face of them.
Form is temporary, Mercurial is permanent.
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