Is there a bigger challenge than being tasked with orchestrating the return of the adidas Predator? For Creative Director of adidas Football, Sam Handy, it was an opportunity to take football's most famous franchise into a modern era of design. A chance to bring back "the most iconic product in the whole sporting goods industry."

We sat down with Handy to get his take on the adidas Predator 18+ and what inspired him, and his team, into creating the first laceless and mid-collar Predator – the most advanced adidas Predator of all time. Forward-thinking with a salute to the illustrious past, it's a design that marks a significant chapter in Predator history.


Sam, the Predator is the one boot that everyone has an opinion on. Does that create more pressure when you’re tasked with bringing it back?

I don’t know if pressure is the right word, but it definitely makes a lot of fun. We had to make a lot of decisions throughout the creation process and really try to get to the bottom of what the Predator means to adidas, and what’s our perspective on it. The objective was to build a Predator for 2018, but make it look as if the franchise had never gone away. It was important to create a Predator for 2018 and not create a retro/heritage product.

We see all the different opinions and it’s really interesting to see how different people view the Predator. I think we’ve hit the nail on the head by creating a really contemporary Predator that still expresses the DNA of what people love Predator for.

It must have been a challenge you were looking forward to?

Yeah, I loved it. The whole team loved it. It’s been a very exciting journey for everybody who has worked on it. What’s been really fun is revealing it to people now, having been looking at it very closely for the last couple of years. To see other people as excited about it as we’ve been has been great. 

The Predator is the most iconic football boot in the game. What do you put that down to?

I think that it’s the most iconic product in the whole sporting goods industry. Obviously, a lot of what makes football boots special, especially the Predator, is being connected to so many remarkable goals and remarkable moments. That’s what’s going to be really interesting about the journey of the new Predator 18 – seeing how it gets played in top level competitions, the Champions League, the World Cup. When it gets connected to those special goals that’s when it start achieving iconic status. That’s definitely what made the original Predator great. Beckham’s halfway-line goal against Wimbledon, Zidane’s UCL Final volley. We all remember the boots they were playing in.

When you’re tasked with bringing back such an iconic boot, do you put extra thought into every decision in the process?

Every time we build a new football boot the process is a long and very detailed one, and I wouldn’t say Predator was any different to that, except of course knowing how much people are so emotionally attached to the boot. From a product creation perspective it wasn’t any different to when we were launching something like Nemeziz or ACE, but we’re definitely conscious of how much people love Predator when we’re working on it. There’s a lot of romance attached to it.

Your job is to build the best product for the best players. But, how much of the process is anticipating what players want the Predator to look like?

None of the process is around designing a boot for what people want it to look like. It was really important for us the whole way through the development process that we were building the best football boot for the Predator player that we could possibly build – the best control boot in the industry. The technical focus is the forethought, making something that can perform at the highest level on the best players in the world, and that was definitely priority over the aesthetic, but we wanted to make it look beautiful at the same time. It’s built with players like Paul Pogba and Dele Alli in mind and tested with these guys the whole way through the process.

The easiest thing we could have done would've been to put a fold-over k-leather tongue on it, right? It would have been simple to drop that in the process and we would have made a lot of people very happy. But, we wouldn’t have been building the best boot for the best professionals by doing that."

How did you choose which Predator series you took inspiration from? If any at all…

I’d say that we took inspiration from all of them. The idea was to build a Predator now that’s connected to the DNA of the icons of the past. I say we looked at all of them, I’ve got my favourites and other people in the team had theirs, but I think you can see bits and pieces in the Predator 18 that have come from previous generations of the boot.

Was it always the plan to bring back the Predator? Or have new technologies opened the door to a return now?

I joined the adidas Football team almost three years ago, and back then the Predator was supposed to be killed forever. There were no plans to bring it back. But the technologies, like the forged Primeknit that’s in the forefoot of the Predator 18 – that tech was too good to not be on a Predator. The technologies and the innovations that we had really synchronised with the idea of bringing the Predator back. I do believe that it was absolutely the right thing to take Predator away back in 2015 when we did the reset, because boots towards the end of the lifecycle of the Predator had lost a lot of the character of what made Predator so special.

The Predator has replaced the ACE series. How would you explain the differences between the two?

The ACE was a brilliant boot, especially the laceless Purecontrol. With Predator 18 I think we’ve taken the ingredients of what made ACE a really disruptive boot and mixed those up with new innovation ingredients and DNA from Predator. It’s definitely not an ACE re-badged as a Predator – it’s a brand new boot with its own character – but if you’ve been playing in ACE you will find the Predator 18 familiar from a fit perspective.

The Predator 18 features so much cutting-edge technology. It’s laceless, it’s got Primeknit, it features brand new innovations. Does it feel like a landmark release to you?

Absolutely. I think whenever adidas launched Predators, and especially the OG Preds from the 90s that people really love, they were always the best of the technology that adidas had available at that time, and the Predator 18 is no different to that. We’ve put all of the best tech from adidas brand into this boot and that’s what really makes it a Predator.

The first thing players link the Predator to is the shooting technology. Can you tell us a little bit about the striking zone on the Predator 18?

The forged Primeknit in the upper provides that shooting sensation. If you pick the Predator 18 up, and I hope a lot of people are going to be experiencing that right now, it’s the softest forefoot that we’ve ever made. There’s something very special about the way that we’ve built it in that you’ve got grip zones moulded into the forefoot, but still the softness of a k-leather boot on a Primeknit upper. The comfort and ball control feedback we’ve been getting from the players has been amazing. It’s the most advance knitted boot that we’ve ever built, but it has the softness and the feel of leather.

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The colourway shows you’re respecting Predator tradition. Was it important to stick the “Black/White/Red” combo for launch?

It was a tough decision to not launch the boot in black, white, red. It was important for us to launch the boot in something that had some recollection and DNA of original Predators but also in something that was completely new. So, it isn't the OG red in the reveal in the Primeknit, it is a slightly different colour, and the gold isn’t a classic gold, it’s something a little more special. 

We made lots of decisions to be inspired by things in the past but not to release something retro. It’s hard to hold back from doing that stuff, but I think it was very important we gave this Predator its own identity.

Since the Predator was retired in 2015 we’ve seen Mania and Accelerator re-releases. Was it always a case of it being too hard to let go of completely?

We loved the original Predators, and the Mania and Accelerator re-releases that we did this year were definitely part of us being very conscious of how much people loved those boots, and how much we loved them ourselves. But, it’s also very important to us that we don’t mix the two topics up – the Predator 18 is a radical high performance boot for the best players in the world today, but at the same time we want to reissue the best of the stuff from the archives and celebrate that as well. 

Onto the adidas professional players that are wearing Predator. How excited were they to hear that the boot was returning?

They loved it. A lot of these guys love the old Predators as much as we do, but they’re not going to want to play in a heavier, leather, rubber-grip element boot. All of the feedback we’re getting from the pros who are wearing it right now is that they want to play in something that’s a tool, a weapon, and when they see that the Predator 18 is so advanced they fell immediately in love with it. What professional player doesn’t want to be the face of a franchise as special as the Predator? 

The first time I met Paul Pogba was at his apartment in Turin when he was playing for Juve, and he pulled out his vintage collection of Predators – he was talking about growing up watching Beckham play in Pred. He was asking when we were going to bring it back, and it’s great that he gets to be part of that story too now."
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Did the player feedback differ in respect to their ages? David Beckham’s reaction compared to a kid that might be wearing Predator for the first time for example…

When we were building the capsule collection with David Beckham that we’ve just dropped, we showed him the Predator 18 – he was actually one of the first people outside of the brand to see the final colourway – and he loved it. He said that he wished he was still playing, and he was really looking forward to getting it on his feet.

He totally understood the reason that it was laceless, and the reason that it is a mid-cut silhouette, and the technical decisions that we’d made on the Predator 18 for a current generation of players. One of the first times we showed some of the Tango League guys, one of them nearly fell over when he saw the boot for the first time! Genuinely freaked out and was mad excited about it! The age difference between the Tango League guys and David is pretty significant, but Predator is special for every generation of football players and fans.

What’s it like showing it to people for the first time?

I was definitely anxious showing it to David Beckham for the first time. Someone who has been a footballing icon, and a Predator icon. You’re always nervous that he’s going to say he doesn't like it, but he loved it and really understood the decisions and that was very rewarding to hear. A special moment.

There’s a new squad of players tasked with writing the next chapter of Predator now. What does the Predator player look like in your eyes?

A creative mindset that dominates the game and puts the ball exactly where they want it to be. There’s definitely a certain type of swagger and presence that comes with that talent too, and that’s definitely something we see with someone like Paul Pogba. He suits that boot very well.

Finally, what does the future hold for the Predator now that it’s back on the scene?

I’m very happy that it’s back and I think the future of the Predator series looks like it’s going to be a home for the most innovative technologies that we have. It’s a boot that’s bringing the brand forward, bringing the look and feel of a football boot forward, and it’s going to continue to surprise us.

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