What boots did they wear? 10 legendary footballers and the football boots they wore

If you’ve ever sat on the sofa wondering what boots a particular famous footballer wore, this blog will at least throw up some answers. If you switch on the TV for a random premier league game in recent years, you might have noticed that most players now wear variations of the same football boots made by the 3 major sports brands; Nike, Adidas, or PUMA.

While the days of predominantly black boots being worn by footballers have passed, the variety of colorways in modern boots doesn’t disguise the fact that footballers all now wear only a handful of select football boot ranges. In fact, according to Football Boots Database, across Europe’s major football leagues, 98% of players wear boots manufactured by one of the three sportswear giants mentioned above.

However, that wasn’t always the case, and in times gone by the legendary footballers that graced our screens were much more likely to wear boots of lesser-known brands.

We’ll take a look at 10 legendary footballers and the boots they wore and provide some interesting pieces of football trivia along the way.

What did they wear? 

While this is by no means a comprehensive list of the boots every ex-pro wore, we have tried to choose 10 of the most iconic footballers and the football boots they wore. So, let’s roll back the years and dive right in.

      What boots did Pelé wear?

      Pele wore PUMA football boots for the majority of his career.

      With athlete endorsements emerging as a major marketing trend in the sports world, Pele was the hottest property.

      The story of how Pele came to wear PUMA boots is quite an interesting one too.

      It goes back to the story of the Dassler brothers, Adi and Rudolf, and their acrimonious split in their company, Dassler Shoe Factory in 1948. The bitter dispute led them to set up their own independent businesses, which we today know as Adidas (Adi) and PUMA (Rudolf).

      Having both built sportswear empires over the next decades, and despite being sworn enemies, the two brothers brokered a deal not to sign Pelé to a contract in the 1970s. The belief among the 2 brothers, was that one of the brands signing him to a contract would almost certainly kill the other, such was the lofty heights of Pelés fame at the time.

      But the oft-time tale of making deals with the devil (or just a devious brother in this case) saw Rudolf circumvent the agreement by paying Pelé $120,000 ($1 million in today’s money when adjusted for inflation) to walk to the center circle, bend over and tie the lace of his PUMA football boots.

      Pele didn’t always wear PUMAs though. Early in his career, he actually wore a brand of boots called Stylo Matchmakers. In fact, before the emergence of major global sports brands, all the top footballers like Liam Brady, Brian Clough, Bill Shankley, and even George Best.

        2. What boots did Maradona wear?

        Maradona wore PUMA King boots, just like many other superstar footballers from the 1970s to 1980s.

        Following on from the fallout of the ‘PUMA Pact’ between Adidas and PUMA, it was open-season in terms of who the brands could sign to contracts. For much of the 70s in particular, it was PUMA who took the bulk of football’s biggest stars under their wing.

        PUMA took it to a whole new level though and signed Diego Maradona to a lifetime endorsement contract which would see him dressed in their sports brand for the rest of his life.

        In a report published by the Spanish newspaper Expansion, Maradona’s contract with PUMA was allegedly worth $1 million per year, which would have netted him a cool $28 million throughout lifetime.

          What boots did Cruyff wear?

          As another football icon of the 70s, Johann Cruyff wore PUMA Kings as part of his mega-contract with the sports brand.

          In the early 70s, Cruyff signed a deal with PUMA to wear their boots and demonstrated the same kind of loyalty to the brand as his Argentinian compatriot, Maradona.

          In fact, his loyalty to the brand was so strong that he once wore a Puma-emblazoned blazer to the Ballon d’Or awards where he collected the top honor.

          Such was the power of his media status of the time as well, he was exempted from wearing 3 stripes on his Adidas sponsored Dutch kit at the 1974 world cup.

          Cristiano Ronaldo might think being the most followed sports person on Instagram is something, but he never pulled a power move of that scale!

            What boots did Roy Keane wear?

            During his heyday, Roy Keane wore Diadora football boots for the best part of his professional football career. Keane initially signed a contract with the Italian sportswear brand in 1996 and continued to wear the iconic black and yellow boots for the remainder of his playing days. The big-tongued, k-leather Diadoras would come to be inextricably linked to Keane’s no-nonsense style of play and persona, as referenced in this self-explanatory advert from the brand:

            Keane didn’t spend his entire career in Diadoras though. He also wore Hi-Tecs.

             If you grew up in the late 90s or early 00s, you probably lived in fear that your mother would insist on a pair of Hi-Tec football boots when you went down to the sports shop. 

            But if they were good enough for Roy Keane to grace a World Cup in, they were damn well good enough for you to muck about in down the park!

              What boots did Ronaldinho wear?

              From the ultra-serious to the ultra fun-loving baller of all time.

              Ronaldinho Gaucho various generations of the Nike Tiempo range, latterly being bestowed the honor of becoming one of the first footballers of his generation to have his own signature range, The Tiempo R10 (although he didn’t wear that particular model all that much).

              In 1996, Nike entered into a deal with the Brazilian national team to become both the kit sponsor and kit supplier. The free-flowing, carefree brand of football associated with the Seleção was epitomized by the wide-smiling Ronaldinho and made him the obvious choice for the brand image of Nike at the time.

              And for the man that wore the Tiempos to great heights, the allure of football boots has never left him. In an interview with 442 Magazine in 2017, Ronaldinho said:

              “[The boots are] a part of everything. My whole life, throughout my career, they’re the ones that are a part of everything, at all times. More than my family, girlfriends, whatever. They’re the biggest companions throughout my career.”

              So there’s the very man himself and his words of wisdom:

              Boots, family, wife…. in that order.

                What boots did r9 Ronaldo wear?

                As part of Nike’s monopoly on Brazilian flare in the mid-90s, they snapped up one of the most iconic players in young Ronaldo, and from that point forward, R9 wore the Nike Mercurial boot range for most of his career.

                In his early career at Cruisero and PSV Eindhoven, the Brazilian striker had already taken a shine to what Nike had to offer, opting to wear the classic Nike Tiempo range.

                However, in 1998, the first Nike Mercurial R9 was for their own mercurial star of the time. In terms of influence, the boot would pioneer the way boots would be made from synthetic materials in the decades that followed up to the present day. The upper was constructed from KNG-100, which felt and looked like leather, but was thinner and didn’t retain as much water as k-leather. All-in-all, it was this game of inches that sought to give the lightning-quick R9 the edge over defenders.

                Over the course of his career, he would go on to become synonymous with the Nike Mercurial Vapor boot line.

                What boots did Zidane wear?

                As most football fans will be aware, Zinedine Zidane wore the Adidas Predator range of boots for the most-part of his career.

                After impressing at both Cannes and Bordeaux, Zidane made the move to Juventus in 1995, where he would win multiple honors in his first season including a Serie A League title, an International Cup, and Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year to top it off. 

                His rise to prominence coincided with the beginning of what would become one of the most iconic football boot models of all time:

                The Adidas Predator.

                Although the predator silo began in 1994, it was in 1998 that they entered the iconic black, red, and white colorway with that big red tongue. As Zidane came to the peak of his powers, cameras focussed on his dazzling feet as he roulette and volleyed his way past the game’s best.

                If he’d had an impact in Italy, his notoriety on the world stage was about to become even more prominent with an awe-inspiring performance at the World Cup Final in his native France. Although he had struggled at times in the tournament, a cheeky nutmeg led to an assist, and he knocked two goals past a star-studded Brazil marked his arrival as a global superstar.

                Zidane would go on to wear the Predator Accelerator, Predator Mania, Predator Pulse, and Predator Absolute at different stages before bringing the curtain down on an illustrious career at Real Madrid.

                  What boots did Thierry Henry wear?

                  As this list highlights, boot-spotting was a much less mundane affair in the 90s and 00s before the consolidation of the game by Nike and Adidas. It wasn’t unusual to see up to 10 different brands of boots on display in a top fight game across Europe.

                  Thierry Henry turned out for Arsenal wearing Nike Vapors during the height of his career, but also wore Reebok football boots in the latter part of his career too. 

                  Images of the slightly-framed French striker are synonymous with the equally delicate, yet deceptively well-engineered Nike Mercurial Vapor range. As the game became more about the technical side of things rather than the purely physical in the early 2000s, Nike followed suit with a boot that gave players feather-light touch and accommodated their fast pace.

                  Despite looking like he might never step foot inside the door of a gym, the Frenchman gave defenders a torrid time with his pace and finishing in the premier league. 

                  2006 saw Henry break from his partnership with Nike, however, making the switch to Reebok and the Reebok RBK football boots (Although, they did look suspiciously like a Vapor, and we’re not sure how they’d fair in a copyright hearing today!).

                  With many believing his best days were in Nike, he would go on to wear the Reebok Pro Rage in 06, and 2 different iterations of the Reebok Sprintfit Pro & Pro lite boots in 07/08. 

                  Not one for brand loyalty, when Henry made his surprise return The Emirates in Henry was this time sporting a modern pair of white Puma Kings.

                  A man for negotiating a decent endorsement contract it seems.

                  It would explain the bizarre Renault Va Va Voom commercials he featured in (I still don’t know what Va Va Voom is despite his best efforts to explain it…)

                  What boots did Beckham wear?

                    By the mid 2000s, football boots have confirmed their transition from a functional piece of kit to the ultimate expression of a footballer’s personality.

                    And if there was one man who cared as much about his appearance as anything else, it was Becks.

                    David Beckham wore Adidas Predators for the entirety of his career, first coming to people’s attention in the Adidas Predator Touch. It was 2000, however, before he would change the Predator game, lining out in a white Predator Precision with a red tongue. It was a departure from the predominantly black and red colorway that Adidas had stuck with since its inception, but it was one that Beckham would make his own.

                    Once the 2002 World Cup rolled around, Beckham was in scintillating form and opted for the Champagne Predator Mania. 

                    If the Predator was meant to add grip to a strike that would curve a ball, Adidas had their man in Beckah. That strike zone was something that suited his game down to a tee. 

                    Beckham would go on to wear the Adidas Predator range right up to his last game, where he wore a custom special white, red, and blue Predator LZ II.

                    What boot does Toni Kroos wear?

                      Toni Kross has worn the very same second generation edition of the Adidas Adipure 11pro since they were first released in 2013/14. 

                      Prior to the 13/14 season, he wore both the adiPure I and adiPure II line from Adidas.

                      As the major sportswear brands moved away from the leather upper on their boots, Toni Kroos said ‘no’ and embraced the beautiful quilted upper of the 11pro. The German slick passing has given the boot a somewhat cult status and is probably now the most sought-after amongst boot collectors around the world.

                      Adidas didn’t sell as many of these as the more popular predator line when they produced them, so they’re rare as chicken teeth now.

                      Maybe it’s the German connection, but Adidas have obliged Kroos in recent years, with the athlete services wing continuing to produce one-off pairs of the classic football boot for the star on a regular basis over the past decade.

                      So that concluded our look at some of the football boots that famous footballers wore throughout their careers. Our little trip down the football memory lane has got us feeling a little bit unenthused about the same selection of 3 boots that the pros line out in today. 

                      We will give an honorable mention to Kurt Zouma who lines out in Trusox Tenaci Boots. Thatsa what happens when you get dropped by Adidas for swinging your cat around your kitchen. 

                      Still, it could be worse.

                      He didn’t have to resort to the Hi-Tecs (Sorry Hi-Tec!)

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