THE Adidas Predator is arguably the most iconic football boot of all time… and now it is back.
Since their conception in 1994, the boots have been universally loved with most players from Premier League to Sunday league wearing a pair at one point.
They have scored some truly iconic goals: Zinedine Zidane’s volley against Bayer Leverkusen, David Beckham’s free-kick against Greece...
And now Adidas have brought them back - and bolder than ever, with no laces and a brand-new Demonskin featuring 406 tiny SPIKES.
It is a design that is sure to divide opinion, especially among the football-boot purists who still love a classic, black, leather boot with laces.
The bosses at Adidas found themselves in an awkward position: the newest version had to live up to the legacy of previous Predators while simultaneously meeting the demands of the modern-day footballer.
Rob Ashcroft is the director of football footwear at Adidas and was the man heading up the three-year project to deliver the latest model, the Predator 20 Mutator.
His role encompassed providing the brief for the boot, marketing and the all-important player testing, communicating with their players such as Paul Pogba and Dele Alli to hear what needed changing along the way.
But he knew there is an expectation with Predator from footballers, fans and followers - and not just with that famous black, white and red colourway.
Ashcroft told SunSport: “When you talk about football and you talk about football boots, you could arguably say that Predator is the most iconic and memorable football boot in the world.
“For that reason alone, we know there is an expectation from consumers of bringing out a new Predator that is going to meet their needs.
"It has a huge following, there is a lot of love for it. We understand that football, not just Adidas football, needs a Predator.
"So with that in mind, it's back in 2020, redesigned.
“It was successful because when Predator was first introduced in 1994, it was ground-breaking. It reinvented the wheel, it was a boot that was different to anything else anyone had ever seen. It really had that shock value that optically it looked so aggressive that consumers around the world were like, 'What does this boot do? What on earth is that?'
“Not only did it have the shock value and disruptive optics, it had the performance features to match it. Combine that with the fact that you had the best players in the world at that time wearing it, the Zidanes and the Beckhams, who at that moment in time were killing the game.”
The new Predator is certainly eye catching with the spikes something never seen before on a football boot.
But Ashcroft insisted they are “not just for show” but the main priority is always performance benefit. The 406 spikes are the latest part of the Predator technology, all aimed at providing players with grip, control and swerve when striking the ball.
He added: “Part of the brief was staying true to the nature of Predator, keeping something disruptive, so optically you wanted something that gave the shock value. But also it wasn't just for show, you wanted something that actually had an end-user benefit to it.
“The tip of the spear is the Demonskin. Demonskin is the thing that everyone is going to be talking about. Right from its first introduction in 1994, it was all about that technology and giving swerve on the ball.
“The Demonskin is super evolved. It is 406 individual spikes and they give a better purchase on the ball. You talk about control, grip, spin, it basically interacts with the ball to enhance those attributes. It is data-designed so it has been sized, positioned and scaled in areas of key contact on the foot.”
Ashcroft may have provided the brief but it was then down to Ben Herath and his team of 40 designers at Adidas’ HQ in Nuremberg to then make the ideas and dreams into a reality.
If the designers had it their way, the spikes would have been DOUBLE the height - but the pro athletes testing the boot quickly made it clear they were simply too big.
Speaking to SunSport, Herath, VP of Design for Adidas Football, said: “We wanted to make sure it lived up to the legacy.
"Throughout the process, we kept putting our prototype on a wall with all the others and asking, 'Is it worthy? Does it live up?' And at every point we said, 'Yes.' It is today's Predator for today's player.
“What we felt we needed was this haptic layer, textural layer. We just didn't know how. We looked at little individual pieces, at different shapes, diamonds, triangles, different biting edges and heights. Together with a computer algorithm, we helped inform exactly what was needed.
“We had some feedback at an early stage it provided too much grip! The spikes were almost double the height, it was very aggressive.
"We thought it was on track for being the right thing to do but when we put it on to a couple of key players, it came back saying there is too much grip and it needed to be turned down a bit.”
Pogba is the flagship player who modelled the new Preds and will be wearing them when he returns from his ankle surgery while Alli and Mesut Ozil will be trying to do the damage when the Mutator makes its debut this week.
Ashcroft added: “The player type for this boot is the control player, the game changer, the player who sits in the middle of the park.
"He's the heartbeat of the team, controls the pace, controls the outcome, distributes the ball, unlocks defences.
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“It is the likes of a Paul Pogba, an Ivan Rakitic, a Mesut Ozil, a Dele Alli.
"These guys have been part of the development journey along the way, they have tried it, tested it, loved it.”
And naturally Adidas are desperately hoping the winning goal in July’s Euro 2020 final is scored with their new Predator.
Herath added: “For us, the Predator has been part of so many moments like that. Great players, historic moments in sport. It has such a rich history. With the Euros coming up, we can't wait.”
- The Adidas Predator Mutator is available from adidas.co.uk/football-shoes from January 28