“I can’t take any more,” The man known as O Fenomeno announced to the press yesterday, “I wanted to continue, but I can’t do it any more. I think of an action, but I can’t do it the way I want to. It’s time.
Those were the words with which Ronaldo LuÄ‚s NazÄ‚Ë‡rio de Lima – known to all the world of football simply as Ronaldo – announced his retirement from the game he loves with immediate effect.
And with those worlds fans of football the world over saw one of the greatest career rollercoasters come to an end, and with it one of the faces that re-defined what it meant for many to play the modern game.
More-or-less every sports website on the internet today will be featuring a nostalgic look back over O Fenomeno’s career and some of his greatest ever goals. But as we’re Footy-Boots.com, we do things a little bit differently.
It’s the staunch belief of many Footy-Boots.com staffers that few players have done as much for the world of football boots as the original Ronaldo. The face and the force behind Nike’s most successful range of football boots – the Mercurial Vapor – the late 90’s-early 00’s were instrumental in allowing Nike to get a foothold in the industry.
But it didn’t all start with the Mercurial Vapor, even a phenomenon has to start somewhere; in Ronaldo’s case that was in the Nike Tiempo range. During his time at PSV Eindhoven, Ronaldo played mostly in the classic Nike Tiempo (now honoured in the form of the Nike Tiempo Premier & the limited edition Nike Tiempo 94)
Heading into the World Cup in 1998, Nike offered the 21-year old Ronaldo his own signature boot – the Mercurial – customised under the tongue with his own ‘R9’ crest.
Ronaldo was the only player to wear the cleat at the competition, racking up 4 goals and 3 assists in the Chrome/Blue/Yellow cleats to help the selecao to the final.
Many fans will remember the Paris final as being souped in murky controversy for the Brazilian great, as he was taken ill following a fit the night before the clash with France; then being included as a last minute addition to the team sheet 72 minutes before kick off.
History will record a 3-0 win on home soil for France on the night, but many football fans will recall Ronaldo being far from his best following the mysterious circumstances that saw his take to the pitch that night.
Ronaldo continued to play in the Mercurial for another season – with Nike even bringing out a Black/White/Blue version to match the Inter Milan home kit.
Next up in the Ronaldo football boots legacy was the Nike Match Mercurial, which saw drastically limited exposure due to Ronaldo picking up a knee injury that spanned most of the two seasons they were in production. By our count Ronnie and the Match Mercurial only saw a dozen or so appearances for Inter Milan, 1 Friendly against Portugal for Brazil and 1 Charity exhibition Match.
Which is a real shame as most people who bought a pair of Match Mercurials swear they were a truly quality boot!
Nike really pushed Ronaldo as their star at the 2002 World Cup in Japan & Korea, and boy, did that pay dividends! Smashing 8 goals in throughout the tournament, Ronnie lead Brazil to their 5th World Cup victory with a two goal haul over Germany in the final.
Playing most of the tournament in the Silver/Red version of Nike’s newest football boots, Nike gifted the Brazilian a now-legendary pair of Chrome/Lime Mercurial Vapor I’s to play the Semi-Final and Final in.
Rumour has it that Nike were considering Ronaldo, Thierry Henry and Francesco Totti to wear these special edition football boots, but Ronaldo’s form was so irresistible it was an easy choice for the Nike executives to decide who to give the boots to in the end.
After the World Cup Final, the Chrome/Lime Mercurial Vapor I’s went on general sale – to put Ronaldo’s impact in perspective – every single pair sold out from NikeTown London within two hours. Every. Single. Pair.
In 2004 Nike once again looked to Ronaldo to debut their latest speed football boots – with the launch of the Mercurial Vapor II in 2004, Ronaldo wore the stunning Photo Blue colourway one month before they hit retail during El Classico.
Nike also did something very unorthodox for the Mercurial Vapor II by dedicating the final colourway to Ronaldo as well – giving him an Aluminum/Gold colourway that was meant to reflect the colours of his Real Madrid kit.
2006 saw another World Cup and a new Mercurial Vapor. The Mercurial Vapor III was a huge hit among players and fans alike. The newly designed upper, form-fitting design and spray heel-graphic made for a stunning pair of football boots.
Ronaldo was on course to set a record too, after scoring two goals past Japan in the group stages Ronaldo was now tied with Gerd Muller on having scored 14 World Cup goals. So when, Ronaldo stepped out to play Ghana and break that record Nike ensured he was wearing a very distinctive pair of football boots.
Coloured to perfectly match the Brazil kit, Ronaldo’s limited edition Vapors were once again one of the most popular football boots ever to hit retail shelves; proving that – despite an indifferent tournament – Ronaldo was still an invaluable player for the American brand.
Following the tournament, Ronaldo continued to play in the Mercurial Vapor III as he moved to AC Milan.
Seen here in the Zinc/Tart incarnation, these would be the last Mercurial Vapor to feature the ‘R9’ identifier on the tongue as Nike looked to bring their new-signature football boots to a new generation, with a new Ronaldo.
That’s not to say Ronaldo was forgotten by Nike, in fact, quite the opposite!
To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Nike Mercurial, the big American brand relaunched the original Mercurial in limited quantities.
With 4 serious knee injuries having taken their toll on the once blisteringly fast striker, Ronaldo is stepping down – but his legacy will echo for years having inspired a new generation of Strikers and changed the world of football boots for the better.
Do you have a favourite pair of Ronaldo’s football boots? Or a favourite goal, match or even shirt?
Drop us a comment and pay tribute to the original, the best, O Fenonmeno!