In 1996, Nike partnered with the world’s most decorated international side, the Brasilian National Team. It was time to create a boot worthy of their caliber of play. Ronaldo, the squad’s young striker, was chosen as the muse. On the pitch, he was patient—stalking, waiting for the right moment. Then, when opportunity arose, he’d strike, accelerating to the ball with velocity that the game had never seen before. With the goal in his sights, Ronaldo would change in nature. He was, in short, mercurial.
To craft a boot suited to Ronaldo’s explosive style, Nike designers looked to the track. Early concepts included a dissembled track spike married to a Nike Tiempo upper, which illustrated the objective of unmatched weight reduction in a football boot. To meet the challenge, the team of designers bucked longstanding trends by eschewing kangaroo leather and employing a synthetic kangaroo replacement, KNG-100. The second major breakthrough was reducing plate thickness from the industry standard 3 mm to a game-changing 1.75 mm. Luca Bolpagni, from Nike’s Product Creation Centre in Montebelluna, Italy said of the innovations, “Everything was shocking at the time. The look, the materials, people didn’t know what to think. It was a truly exciting moment.”
Nike launched the Mercurial silo in 1998, forever changing the look and feel of performance football boots.