Playmaker counts down the 15 greatest balls to ever be kicked in anger

The Greatest Balls in Football History

2020/03/22 13:10
By Connor Andrews
E0

This winter has seen the return of the famed blue and yellow Nike Aerow to Premier League pitches up and down the country, putting football fans on a brief nostalgic trip every time we've seen a close up.

Here at Playmaker though, we've used it as an excuse for a nostalgia trip of our own, where we count down the 15 greatest footballs to ever be kicked in anger...


#15 Adidas Tango 12

©Getty / AFP

The best recreation of a classic. Euro 2012’s Tango showed less is more with its simplistic but stand out design, featuring the flags of host countries Ukraine and Poland around the black looping triangles which cleverly change the look of the ball from each angle. 

#14 Mitre Ultimax

Before Nike got involved, Mitre’s monopoly over English football extended across the League, FA Cup and League Cup up until the start of the millennium. 

From its inception Mitre was the Premier League’s ball, with their best effort being their last, the Ultimax. A simple but effective design, blocking a shot from a Mitre on a cold day would leave the worst of red marks. If you never had the chance to play with the most solid of balls, be thankful, as finding the right pressure to pump these was finding a needle in a haystack that never existed. Still, a classic in its own right.


#13  Nike NK 800 Geo

Nike had their time in Spain prior to entering the Premier League and beginning to dominate club football, and what a time it was. The beginning of the Real Madrid Galáctico era coincided with this simple but rather perfect effort from Nike.


#12 Derbystar Bundesliga Brilliant

A ball not so familiar to an English audience but one that has dominated North West Europe for the past few years, breaking the Nike and Adidas monopoly. Back after a 50-year hiatus, the Derbystar is used again in the Bundesliga as well as Netherlands Eredivisie and a select few others. Unspectacular but stand-out for its history and uniqueness, it's nice to see a rival for the main two.


#11 Adidas Europass

Recognised in an instant, Euro 2008’s official ball greatest moment was being dinked over Jens Lehman by Fernando Torres to win Spain’s first major title in 44 years. One of the most memorable Euro tournaments by virtue of everyone falling in love with Luis Aragonés’ free flowing Spain side, the Europass followed on from its predecessor with a silver design that stood out with its black circles.


#10 Adidas Tango Durlast

The first in a long line of Adidas Tangos, the Durlast was introduced at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and most recently appeared at Euro 2012. The first ball in football to step away from the basic black and white hexagonal panels design, the Tango is a legend in the world of football with some of the greatest names of all time smashing it into the net. Inspiring the next five World Cup ball designs, the Tango legacy has left its mark on football forever.


#9 Nike Geo Merlin

©Getty / David Rogers

Nike’s venture into the Premier League started at the turn of the millennium and lasts to this day with some iconic efforts in between. The Merlin was what started it all and this base design that spanned four seasons, with minor colour changes, remains a huge nostalgia trip. Just looking at the picture brings back memories of Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Alan Shearer thumping it into the top corner. As Nike stepped away from the panelled toughness of a Mitre, the Premier League followed suit with this ball being involved in a new skillful, global English league.


#8 Adidas Telstar

As classic as a round object you kick can possibly get. Debuting at the 1970 Mexico World Cup on the global stage after its most basic ‘Elast’ form made a Euro 68 appearance, the Telstar redefined how a football should look. Before this ball, footballs were a brown leather paneled sack, and now this design is the most iconic of all sporting objects. It’s most recent version, the Telstar 18, was the ball of the 2018 World Cup, keeping the legacy Adidas created intact to this day. 


#7 Adidas Teamgeist

The ball of the 2006 World Cup is instantly recognisable, with its stand out black panels being bonded together, rather than stitched, for the first time in World Cup history, leading to this unique and stand-out look. With Germany the host City, the black and white design mirrored their kits and became one of the stand out images in an iconic tournament,


#6 Adidas Wawa Aba

The Wawa Aba was the ball of the 2008 African Cup of Nations, and a superb design capitalised on a tournament where so many countries flags feature the green, yellow and red colouring. The ball became a legend in the host country Ghana, and was used for following African tournaments. The first official match ball of the continents competition may not be instantly recognisable outside of Africa, but it's use of the trio of colours is undoubtedly perfect.


#5 Adidas Roteiro 

Euro 2004 was remembered for ugly teams and ugly wins, with Greece defeating Portugal in their home final in one of international football’s biggest ever upsets. The Roteiro was at least a highlight, converging from the standard white design that had become the norm in football. It’s simple but attention-grabbing silver colouring featuring blue crosses made it a must buy, and a ball you’d see in lakes and stuck in trees all over the county, as kids scrambled to buy it. Manchester United were at their peak, and every young player wanted this ball so they could pretend to be Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.


#4 Adidas Jabulani

If a small round object could be controversial, my word the Jabulani certainly did that. It’s cult status began as it was spanked into the top corner by Siphiwe Tshabalala, to score South Africa’s, and the 2010 World Cup’s opening goal, in one of the great moments of international football. Controversy reigned as players loved the ball, and goalkeepers hated it; which can only be a good thing. Players began to take advantage of the ball’s incredibly odd flight, with the likes of Diego Forlan smashing in moving long-range efforts. Brazil keeper Julio Cesar compared it to a supermarket ball, and Gianlugi Buffon described it as ‘shameful’ despite the joy it brought to the audience. It’s odd movement during flight was attributed to it being covered in small lines, having the reverse effect of the dimples on a golf ball, disrupting the surrounding air rather than cleaning it. It wasn’t a bad looking ball either, and the iconic name Jabulani will go down in history along with Vuvuzela.


#3 Nike Total 90 Aerow I

One of the most iconic balls in history dominated the English and European football with its slick and revolutionary design. The ball that conjures up images of Ronaldinho and Jogo Bonito, the Aerow was the ball Fernando Torres and Cristiano Ronaldo put in the net on a weekly basis, as the Premier League teams dominated European football. Nike’s advertising campaign went in full flow taking over the boot, kit and ball market with some new and bold designs, but the Aerow I has its own legacy in multiple colours, designs across every league. A footballing icon and a mastery in simplicity as Nike continue to over complicate recent designs. 


#2 Adidas Finale 10

The ultimate piece of branding. Once the Champions League ball shifted from Nike to Adidas in 2001, adidas perfected their design, keeping the star spangled marketing across every asset, culminating with the match balls. The 2010/11 season effort uses the blue from their branding and it's the simplest and purest form of a ball that's played its part in taking the competition to the pinnacle of all sport. This particular version was netted by Lionel Messi as Barcelona and the Argentine put themselves firmly in the conversation as the greatest player and team of all time, sweeping aside Manchester United at Wembley. Synonymous with the greatest players of all time, the ball stands alongside that company in its own right.


#1 Adidas Fevernova

As World Cup football took a big step expanding into the Asian continent for the first time in its history with the Korea and Japan World Cup in 2002, Adidas broke boundaries of their own creating the most beautiful football we’ve ever seen. Varying off the standard white which had dominated football since the introduction of the Telstar, the Fevernova’s gold hints with a red and green coloured triangle took inspiration from Asian culture with four ‘tomoe’ swirled triangles beautifully embossing the ball’s simple hexagonal stitching. Ronaldo swept home this ball eight times in total, and twice in the final, as Brazil lifted their fifth trophy. One of the purest and most joyful footballers and football teams, was suitably accompanied by the game's greatest achievement in football design.

©Getty / PATRICK HERTZOG

 


 

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