Riley Jones is a student from Charlottesville, VA. With an unshakable affinity for sneakers and all things ’90s, he can be found on Twitter @rchrstphr.

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The Evolution of the Nike Mercurial Vapor

Nike Mercurial Vapor

No. 1 – Nike Mercurial Vapor

Notable games: vs. Manchester United in Summer of 2003, vs. Millwall 2004 FA Cup Final
Year released: 2002
Years worn: 2002-2004

Upon his arrival in the pros, Cristiano Ronaldo immediately picked up the original Mercurial Vapor. Whether he was donning a metallic gold or chrome colorway, one thing was clear: Ronaldo, and the Mercurial Vapor, had arrived. Ronaldo wore the Mercurial Vapor as a member of Sporting CP, where he led them to a 3-1 win over Man U in the summer of 2003. As legend has it, Ronaldo’s performance in this game caught the attention of United’s manager Alex Ferguson, who pursued the young athlete and eventually signed him.

Ronaldo’s impact on Man U was realized almost immediately. He was honored with the number “7,” and helped lead Manchester United to a win in the 2004 FA Cup Final.Nike Mercurial Vapor II

No. 2 – Nike Mercurial Vapor II

Notable games: vs. Wigan Athletic Football League Cup
Year released: 2004
Years worn: 2004, 2005

Ronaldo’s next boot began to foreshadow his preference for the Mercurial Vapor line. In the second iteration of the model, he helped power Manchester United to a win over Wigan Athletic at the Football League Cup.

The Mercurial Vapor II was built to be tougher and more durable than its predecessor, but otherwise carried over much of the tech from the original.Nike Mercurial Vapor III

No. 3 – Nike Mercurial Vapor III

Notable games: 2006 World Cup, vs. Manchester City May 2007 (Premier League title)
Year released: 2006
Years worn: 2006, 2007

More Mercurial, more success. In the Mercurial Vapor III, Ronaldo had one of his best professional seasons yet. He received consecutive Barclays Player of the Month awards, the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, PFA Young Player of the Year, PFA Fan’s Player of the Year, and a host of other honors throughout 2006 and 2007.

Meanwhile, the third Mercurial iteration dropped its NikeSkin construction in favor of a one-piece Teijin microfiber upper and added a carbon fiber inlay to the heel.Nike Mercurial Vapor IV

No. 4 – Nike Mercurial Vapor IV

Notable games: vs. Newcastle United January 2008 (first hat trick), European Championships, vs. Stoke City November 2008 (100th goal), Club World Cup
Year released: 2008
Years worn: 2008, 2009

The fourth Mercurial Vapor model featured a lacecover for better ball control and a revamped, stickier version of the Teijin microfiber upper. For Ronaldo, the new cleats brought new heights and accomplishments. He achieved his first hat trick in the Mercurial Vapor IV, in a match against Newcastle United in January 2008.

In 2008, Ronaldo won the European Golden Shoe award as he set a club single-season record for midfielders by scoring 33. Along the way, he wore the Mercurial Vapor IV in a variety of colorways, including Orange Peel, Sport Red, and Pine Green renditions.Nike Mercurial SL

No. 5 – Nike Mercurial SL

Notable games: 2008 Champions League Final
Year released:
2008
Years worn:
2008

Much like Nike Basketball's Elite series, the Mercurial SL was a top-of-the-line model equipped with high-end tech. Handmade in Italy, the Mercurial SL’s entire upper was constructed of a carbon fiber weave. Meanwhile, its carbon fiber sole and heel counter were made in Germany. This model was created exclusively for Ronaldo and Drogba, although it was only worn on the field by Ronaldo. #Very #Rare.

Manchester United would go on to win the Champions League final over rivals Chelsea, and Ronaldo was named the UEFA Fans’ Man of the Match.Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly

No. 6 – Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly

Notable games: vs. Inter Milan March 2009 (Superfly debut), vs. Shamrock Rovers July 2009 (Real Madrid debut),
Year released: 2009
Years worn:
2009, 2010

New team, new cleats. In 2009, Nike equipped the Mercurial Vapor line with Flywire in the form of the Mercurial Vapor Superfly. With a thin layer of Teijin microfiber and supportive Flywire, the Superfly was one of the lightest Mercurial models to date. This would mark the first time Ronaldo skipped the sequential Mercurial Vapor model, instead opting for the lighter, quicker Superfly.

For Ronaldo, he came in second in the 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year voting and second in the 2009 Ballon d’Or award. He closed out his first season with Real Madrid with 96 points, making him second place in the 09-10 La Liga.Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly II

No. 7 - Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly II

Notable games: 2010 World Cup, vs. Racing de Santander October 2010 (four goals)
Year released: 2010
Years worn:
2010, 2011

The second version of the Mercurial Vapor Superfly was worn for some of Ronaldo’s defining professional moments. In October ’10, Ronaldo scored four goals in a match against Racing de Santander, the most he’s ever scored in a single game. He wore a special orange/silver colorway of the Superfly II during the 2010 World Cup, where he was named Man of the Match in all three Portugal Group G matches. He was also known for breaking out volt/cactus and bright cherry colorways of the Flywire-equipped model.

Picking up where the original Superfly left off, Ronaldo was chosen as the face of the Superfly II.  It featured the debut of the NikeSense stud configuration, and Ronaldo was also honored with his very own colorway inspired by the classic Nike Safari print (see next slide). Nike Mercurial Vapor CR Safari Superfly II

No. 8 - Nike Mercurial Vapor CR Safari Superfly II

Notable games: vs. Atletico Madrid November 2010 (CR Safari debut)
Year released: 2010
Years worn:
2010, 2011

For the first time, Nike created a signature Mercurial colorway specifically for Ronaldo. This style sported a silver Safari print upper, but otherwise boasted the same technology as the original Mercurial Vapor Superfly II.Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly III

No. 9 – Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly III

Notable games: UEFA Champions League semifinals
Year released: 2011
Years worn:
2011

Ronaldo debuted the Mercurial Vapor Superfly III in April 2011, just before winning the 2011 Copa del Rey. Throughout the year, Ronaldo set a number of single-season goal records, finishing second in the 2010-11 La Liga with 92 points. For the third and final time, he was laced in the latest Superfly vesion instead of the standard Mercurial Vapor model. With this model, Ronaldo’s “hot water” method became popular, where he would give the cleats a pre-match soak in hot water to soften the upper. NikeSense studs, Teijin microfiber, and Flywire support cables were once again utilized on the Superfly III.

This time around, Nike hooked Ronaldo up with not one, but two signature styles: a black/yellow Safari makeup and a silver/navy colorway. Nike CR Mercurial Vapor Superfly III

No. 10 - Nike CR Mercurial Vapor Superfly III

Notable games: 2011 Copa del Rey final
Year released: 2011
Years worn:
2011

For CR's signature colorway of the Superfly III, Nike created this black/yellow Safari make-up, as well as a silver/navy variation.Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII

No. 11 – Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII

Notable games: Euro 2012, vs. Real Sociedad March 2012 (over 100 goals with Real Madrid), UEFA Champions League
Year released: 2012
Years worn:
2012

In 2012, it was back to the Mercurial Vapor line for Ronaldo, as Nike discontinued the Superfly version. 2012 also brought one of his greatest individual seasons, finally earning the Trofeo Alfredo Di Stéfano as the top La Liga player of the season after outplaying rival Lionel Messi. He had 100 points in the ‘11-12 La Liga and helped power Real Madrid to the semis of the UEFA Champions League.

The Mercurial Vapor VIII is constructed of Teijin OLM 12 material, slimming down even further from previous versions. Ronaldo was laced in yet another special colorway, a black-based style with a blue and pink gradient sole.Nike CR7 Mercurial Vapor VIII

No. 12 - Nike CR7 Mercurial Vapor VIII

Notable games: vs. Borussia Dortmund (Champions League)
Year released: 2012
Years worn:
2012

Ronaldo's third signature style didn't get quite as much action on the field as the previous colorways, but the slick gradient effect made this a must-have for soccer fans. A small run of sizes are still available for $184.Nike Mercurial Vapor IX

No. 13 – Nike Mercurial Vapor IX

Notable games: 2013 Copa del Rey Final, UEFA Champions League semifinals
Year released: 2013
Years worn:
2013

Ronaldo’s latest and greatest boot is the Nike Mercurial Vapor IX. Thus far, he’s finished second place in the 2012-13 La Liga with 85 points and once again led Real Madrid to the UEFA Champions League semifinals. Although Ronaldo’s future with Real Madrid is up in the air, wherever he lands, he’ll be equipped with the latest addition to the historic Mercurial Vapor line.

The Mercurial Vapor IX is loaded with performance tech, such as a Teijin OLM 12 upper enhanced with Speed Control and Nike All Conditions Control. Ronaldo was also honored with a special colorway in a limited run, commemorating his achievements from the 2011-12 season.

Pick up the Mercurial Vapor IX for $225.Nike Mercurial Vapor IX CR7

No. 14 - Nike CR7 Mercurial Vapor IX

Notable games: vs vs Athletic Bilbao 2013 April 2013
Year released: 2013
Years worn:
2013

Ronaldo's CR7 version of the Mercurial Vapor IX features a fiery neon color scheme and new Swoosh placement, but otherwise maintains the technology used in the standard Mercurial Vapor IX. Pick up these firm-ground cleats today for $184.

RELATED: How the Nike Mercurial Soccer Cleat Changed the Game
RELATED:
The Evolution of the Nike Mercurial Vapor

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