If there’s ever a time to dust off the old boot-spotting-binoculars and start canvassing training pitches and friendly matches alike, pre-season is among the best.
Year-after-year, we see plenty of weird and wonderful instances of players giving a different pair of boots to their usual preference a sneaky run-out and year-after-year the rumour mill starts a-spinnin’ over a big-money switch.
Whilst it’s always a surprise to see players actually make the move to a new brand (Mata to adidas, Kompany to Warrrior, Fabregas to Puma; for example) – the ones that pique our interest most are those players who give the boots a run out, then go back to their old brand or go in a different direction completely.
Today, we’re compiling 10 players who’ve done that in recent memory.
The inspiration for this post, the world was left curiously furrowing its collective brow as ‘Mr. Predator’, Steven Gerrard, was snapped in a pair of the Nike CTR360 III.
Even during this one-off appearance, many assumed this was down to the career-long Liverpool man simply losing or giving away his Predator LZ ' II’s and a switch to Nike wasn’t officially on the cards. At the time of writing, Gerrard is back in the Three Stripes of adidas, though wearing a custom pair of adiPure 11pro reportedly to help him recover from a heel blistering issue.
Chelsea skipper John Terry caused a similar stir in 2009 when he turned out in a pair of adidas adiPure II’s for a pre-season friendly against Inter Milan, instead of his trusty Speciali.
Umbro kindly confirmed to us at the time that this was a one-off incident where there was a delay in the transit of the England defender’s Speciali’s resulted in him having to send off for a pair buying from a local sport store.
With Umbro’s sale by Nike looming on the horizon, many thought all of Umbro’s player contracts would be snapped up by the Swoosh, including that of England stopper Joe Hart.
One hard piece of evidence was the the Goalkeeper warming up for a World Cup qualifier against Poland in the Nike T90 Laser IV in October 2012. However, it seems Umbro fought tooth and nail to keep Hart, as he never featured competitively wearing anything other than Umbro.
Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck was another player enjoyed chopping and changing boots throughout October last year.
The England striker tried out two of Nike’s boots – the Tiempo Legend and Mercurial Vapor in addition to his usual T90’s as well as the adidas F50 adiZero.
Perhaps Welbeck was scared straight back into the Swoosh’s boots by Nike’s treatment of Mesut Ozil (who was undergoing a similar boot-swapping saga around the same time) – or maybe it was the promise of being a leading face of the slick new Hypervenom Phantom that got him back on board.
In a similar vein to Danny Welbeck, Robinho ruffled a few Nike feathers when he spent his initial loan spell at AC Milan switching out of his Nike Mercurials for the adidas F50 adiZero and Mizuno Supersonic Wave.
Whilst the samba start believed his time with Nike had lapsed, the tricky forward’s sponsorship deal had a clause that saw it automatically renewed, leaving the two parties to juke it out in court' before Robinho settled into life as a Nike athlete again.
Ahead of his big summer move to Manchester City two years ago Sergio Aguero was one of the leading Nike athletes in Spain and South America, happily pilfering goals for Atletico Madrid in the Nike Superfly.
Things then got a little complicated for the forward and he featured in the 2011 Copa America for Argentina in the adidas adiPure IV, bagging a few goals and generally seeming pretty happy in the Three Stripes heritage option.
Upon arriving in England, however, the pacey striker switched back to Nike as pre-season training rumbled on – only to be hampered by blisters that saw him miss the Charity Shield. Clearly unhappy with his footwear Aguero signed with Puma only months later.
A peculiar one-off, Arsenal string-puller Santi Cazorla enjoyed only one training session in the Warrior Skreamer K-Lite, ditching his adidas adiPure 11pro in January this year.
Normally, given the speed at which the Spanish international switched back, we’d write this one off as a one-time thing – but Warrior have pulled off similar stunts with Vincent Kompany and Jonas Gutierrez in the past, so we’re keeping a sharp eye on the diminutive playmaker.
Danish international Daniel Agger was the subject of a bid by American brand Under Armour in 2009 as they launched their first ever football boot – the Dominate.
Having previously played in the Predator, Agger spent one international game for Denmark and one friendly for Liverpool in the Dominate before sampling the then-new CTR360 and swapping back into the Predators again, before starting a love-affair with the adiZero in 2010.
As you can see from this picture, it was also the time Agger had limited powers of flight.
Bonus – This seasons will he/won’t he: Phil Jones
One of Puma’s hottest talents, the King-wearer has spent the season flitting between the Nike Tiempo and adidas NitroCharge.
It seems odd that Manchester United’s versatile defender would wear two fully-branded boots if his time with Puma was at an end – however, if writing this article has taught us anything it’s that we shouldn’t write off the big gurner from returning back to the King for the 2013-14 campaign.
Is there anyone we’ve missed? Lets us know other players who almost made a switch in the comments below!