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  • Writer's pictureLuke Powell

On your bike, Nike. The end of an era.

The Athletic reports that Nike’s 24 year partnership with the Premier League is set to end in 2025

 

There have been many classic Premier League footballs designed and produced by Nike over the years, but after 2025 we may not see another. The curtain will be drawn and the partnership ended between the sporting brand giants and the top flight league of English football as they make way for Puma when their current deal concludes.

The Athletic has reported that a deal couldn't be agreed between the Premier League and Nike during negotiations. The US giants Nike have been the ball manufacturer since the 2001/02 season with the 2023/24 ball marking a 24 year partnership with some iconic designs.

 

A rise from the German multinational corporation Puma has been seen over the last few years, as they took over the manufacture and designing of Manchester City’s kit in the 2019/20 season. It was City’s worst kept secret and saw a ten year deal struck, worth £650m. Nike rolled over and were replaced by the brand likewise to what the Premier League have recently announced. Moreover, the likes of Luis Suarez, Jack Grealish, and global star Neymar Jr rep Puma football boots, and the latter two substituted out their Nike deals to wear the German sports brand’s cleats on the field.

 

La Liga and Serie A once used Nike balls too, but Puma now provides the footballs for both leagues as well as the EFL with their Orbita design. No statement has been made from either the Premier League or Puma at the time of writing, but a chapter is set to end and a wonderful era is closing.

 

In steps Puma from 2025 after Nike revealed what could be their penultimate ball design back in June. The new PL ball has an orange theme with their Aerow Sculpt technology.

A trip down memory lane

 

As the Nike Premier League ball era is set to end in two year’s time, it’s only right that we look back at some classics and memories from over the years.

 

At Crowdplod we love to hear what you think and for you to voice your opinion, so get involved and comment your favourite and least favourite Nike Premier League balls across our social media channels.

 

For me, and I’m sure many would agree, the 2015/16 Premier League football is right up there as a ‘top tier’ ball.

The ball from the year that Leicester won the league - magical, memorable and beautiful. Everything was right about this season and there wasn’t much you couldn’t love, unless you are a Tottenham fan, with it being the closest they’ve come to top flight glory in recent times.

 

So simple yet extraordinary, the patterns and design of this ball like a fine-crafted web of a spider. When it rolled on the pitch it was so satisfying like no other ball before, and is one for sure nobody can forget.

Who can fail to remember Dimitri Payet banging the 2015/16 Premier League ball into the top right corner past Wayne Hennessey in goal for Crystal Palace at the Boleyn Ground, during the 2-2 draw between the sides in early April of 2016.

Payet smashed the hi-vis yellow and orange version of the ball into the top left corner against Bournemouth and the pink and white FA Cup version into the Blackburn Rovers net and past Manchester United from afar to stun Old Trafford.

A ball with such great memories of Payet’s free-kick’s, but much more too. Jamie Vardy famously shattered records and wrote himself into the history books that season as he volleyed superbly against Liverpool at home.

 

Moreover, Dele Ali flicked the beauty of a ball over his head and rifled home for Spurs against Palace away, and who can forget Martin Tyler’s joy at Old Trafford with “ohhh yesss, welcome to Manchester United Anthony Martial,” as the forward scored a debut goal against Liverpool.

Nike set the standards right from the start, if you class that as the 2004/05 season. The first four balls by Nike are certainly not my favourite designs, and it’s hard to see what was different about them. This would be a pattern to follow, but I’m sure many would agree the next four or five balls to follow were all classics.

 

The 2003/04 season was still a great ball, the simple black and white didn't look too shabby as Thierry Henry blasted in goal after goal for the Arsenal Invincibles. However, the following season, Nike really turned it on.

Simple yet so effective and easy upon the eye. This design from Nike which would be used for the next four years will forever be remembered. The Nike T90 Aerow I was firstly produced with a blue ring around the white ball, but it’s the winter yellow and blue version which is my favourite and I’m popular amongst most football fans.

 

As the Daily Express perfectly summed it up: “If the Mitre balls are defined as classic, then the T90 Aerow is El Clasico. The third design in Premier League history, Nike's T90 design stormed the world by introducing the winter ball - by far the most iconic of all the Premier League designs. Jose Mourinho's Chelsea topping United with Didier Drogba rolling one in at the Shed End? Historic.”

 

In 2006 the ring became red and the blue of the winter ball, purple. Such a delightful ball and one desired by many young footballers for the back-garden. In fact, I was lucky enough to have a replica of the simple yet so stunning ball. Likewise to the 2015/16 ball, all four balls that were manufactured by Nike with this design were so satisfying to see fly through the air and will be remembered forever.

A memory being Cristiano Ronaldo’s strike against Portsmouth with the winter 2007/08 ball, a free-kick which will live long in the memory.

 

Nike continued to produce bangers, and decided to change things a year later. This is where we saw Nike design a completely different ball each season with no exact resemblance to the one from the year before. They had followed the same patterns for years and in 2008 Nike brought that trend to an end.

The Nike T90 Omni came about and was another beauty. Red and white again, but moving away from the ring and to a different pattern. Who can forget when Liverpool thumped Manchester United 4-1 in their own backyard with that ball. Iconic.

 

The ball that followed was just as good, if not better. Nike decided to get more creative from that point onwards. I remember the 2009/10 T90 Ascente ball looking a banger on FIFA 10. It definitely deserves a place in the hall of fame, and that Michael Owen goal for Manchester United against City comes to mind.



Next, a ball that probably deserves more recognition…the Nike Aerow Sculpt from 2021/22.

Inspired by comic books this ball stood out, and it was a success, the Sculpt was a bestseller when it was introduced just before Christmas of the 2021/22 season.

 

Conor Gallagher’s strike against Everton for Crystal Palace stands out like many goals. Mateo Kovacic volleyed the hi-vis comic book ball brilliantly off the post with his shin against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. James Ward-Prowse scored a screamer of a knuckle-ball free-kick against Wolves at Molineux from afar, and Trent Alexander-Arnold found the top corner against West Ham. Talking of West Ham, Manuel Lanzini belted one home on the half-volley against Manchester City which is just one of the great memories with this fantastically designed ball which was different but special, and stood out for a reason. In fact, all the footballs from this season were bliss. The baby blue used on the summer ball for the final part of the season was simply lovely.

 

Manchester City fans will have fond memories of the Nike Seitiro from the 2011/12 season. Looking back, it feels like yesterday, but it was over ten years ago since Sergio Aguero clinched his side the Premier League title in the dying embers.

The striking rocket-like design and Premier League badge fronting it looks slick and could be worthy of the saying ‘prime Barclays’.

 

The fact is, there are too many classics and fantastic Premier League balls that Nike have produced to discuss. The Nike T90 Tracer so pleasing on the eye, the pattern symmetrical, and looked stunning in yellow and purple when Wayne Rooney disgustingly powered it past Manchester City with an overhead kick. Again, iconic.

And, it’s not just about the old boys and being nostalgic. Nike have produced some great balls in recent years. The Nike Merlin from 2018/19 was an eye-catcher with its design and vibrant lime, green and blue colours.

 

But, finally a ball that reminded me of the yellow ball used and designed back in the 2000’s, the 2019/20 Merlin ball which marked a 20-year partnership between Nike and the Premier League.

It was just perfect, the patterning, the ‘90’, the colour combination, and it’ll live long in the memory. Jay Rodriguez scored a late stunner at home for Burnley against Chelsea, while Kevin De Bruyne smashed home his shot off the bar against Newcastle at St James’ Park which is well worth a watch over and over again.

 

Unfortunately, it was a season hit by Coronavirus and saw fans miss out on the end of the season. Liverpool supporters never got to see their side lift the Premier League trophy in person, but they were able to see their side hammer Leicester 4-0 away from home on boxing day, including some great strikes with the yellow winter ball which comes closest to the classic from the 2000’s.

It’s a shame the Nike era is coming to an end, but not everything lasts forever. There are many memorable footballs and iconic moments with them to look back on for years to come, and nobody will ever forget the classics that Nike made and which you fall in love the game with watching.

 

Tell us your favourite Premier League Nike match-ball!

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