The evolution of Lionel Messi's boots

Lionel Messi Barcelona boots GFXGetty/GOAL

Throughout Lionel Messi’s career, his relationship with adidas has been a near-constant. The Argentine has been with the Three Stripes since he was a teenager, and launched a number of exclusive boots with the brand. His various adidas releases have celebrated everything from Ballon d’Or wins to the birth of his children.

It wasn’t always like this, though.

Before he signed with adidas, Messi made his first steps in professional football wearing the Nike Swoosh. Even as a teenager, the hype was evident, leading to a court case and an eventual move to adidas.

More than 15 years later, he’s committed to a lifetime deal with the brand.

From his Nike roots to his own adidas line, this is how Messi’s boots have evolved through the course of his career...

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    Nike T-90

    When Messi burst onto the scene as a precocious teenager he wore one of Nike’s most famous boots ever. For some matches in his debut Barcelona season, which ended with the U20 World Cup in 2005 – he scored six as Argentina won their fifth title – Messi wore the classic black and white Nike Tiempo. For some of his stand-out early performances, Messi moved on to Nike’s Total 90 line, following in the footsteps of teammate and idol Ronaldinho.

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    F30 TUNiT

    By 2006, adidas had gazumped Nike and signed Messi to a long-term endorsement deal. Throughout that year, he tended towards the F30 model, ignoring adidas’ top-of-the-range F50 line. Messi’s early adidas boots included the F30 TUNiT during a breakout season that included his first Champions League winner’s medal and his first World Cup.

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    The F50i instantly became a classic due to a single moment in the 2009 Champions League final. Messi, looking resplendent in Barcelona’s half-and-half kit, leapt to head home a Xavi cross. As he landed, his right boot – a bright blue F50i – came off. Messi didn’t stop to put the boot back on before celebrating, holding it aloft and kissing it as he ran towards the waiting cameras.

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    F50 adizero

    As the 2000s turned into the 2010s, Messi began wearing the F50 adizero. His relationship with the boot lasted for a long time, and covered some major events, all of which were celebrated with special-edition pairs. 2012 was a bumper year, with special pairs marking his 90 goal record, three Ballon d’Or wins and the birth of his son Thiago. adidas continued the special designs, with one highlight being a birthday pair as Messi turned 27 during the 2014 World Cup.

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    Messi 15

    By 2015, Messi’s name was front and center on his boots. The Messi 15 arrived on the eve of the 2015 Copa América in Chilé – Messi won Best Player as Argentina came second – and was revisited in a range of colors over its lifespan. Some of the designs included Messi’s “M” logo prominently on the forefront, while others marked special occasions. 2015 was the year Messi won his fifth Ballon d’Or, and adidas celebrated by dressing the Messi 15 in a “Platinum” colourway.

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    Messi 16

    adidas revisited Messi’s signature boot in 2016, originally launching the Messi 16 in a “Metallic” and “Shock Blue” design. Over the coming 12 months, adidas would continue to tweak the boot, launching multiple special issues. In October, the brand added iridescent detailing for the “10/10” release, a month later it was a “Red Limit” colourway and, in early 2017, the boot was wrapped in “Metallic Copper” for the “Turbocharge” design.

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    Nemeziz 17.1

    Messi made the switch to adidas’ Nemeziz line in 2017, originally teasing the new line in May of that year. One of his first appearances in the boot was in his signature take on the “Ocean Storm” colorway, replacing Nemeziz branding with his own name. Over the coming years, Messi and adidas tweaked his signature Nemeziz boots repeatedly, updating it for the subsequent 18.1 and 19.1 editions.

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    Nemeziz Messi 19.1

    In 2020, Messi’s love affair with the Nemeziz was still going strong. By this point, it was the 19.1 silhouette on his feet and – as with all of his other signature boots – adidas crafted a wide variety of special-edition releases. One of the highlights had a blue base and graffiti-inspired imagery paying tribute to the man himself. As well as a picture of Messi and “Leooo!!!” text, the boots paid tribute to the cities of Rosario and Barcelona.

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    Nemeziz Messi.1 Rey de Balon

    The Nemeziz was updated again in 2021 – the year Messi moved on from the silhouette – with the launch of the Nemeziz Messi.1 Rey de Balon. With its name translating as “King of the Ball,” the boot celebrated Messi’s status in the game with a golden crown and his personal logo. These details sat alongside the bright colour of “Solar Red” and “Solar Yellow.”

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    Switches to Speedflow in 2021

    In 2021, Messi moved on to the Speedflow silhouette. His first version of the line was the El Retorno – sporting a colourway inspired by the F30 he wore in 2007 – although a string of special releases soon followed. His latest boots also look to his past, with the Mi Historia design featuring text such as “La Masia,” “Familia” and “Balon” on a gold upper that throws it back to a 2014 Adizero IV worn by Messi.