Creative Soccer Culture

R9 Talks Mercurial Legacy, Neymar & 2018 World Cup

Few players on this planet command a natural presence when they walk into a room like Ronaldo. The OG R9 is still heralded as the greatest out-and-out striker of all time, a ruthless goalscorer, and the king of the Nike Mercurial. An icon of the game and an icon of the Swoosh.

Where one of football's all-time greats go, crowds follow. As we sit inside NikeLab's modestly sized Milan store awaiting footballing greatness we hear crowds shouting and cameras clicking before Ronaldo opens the door to join the assembled media, and to launch the new 20th anniversary Nike "What The Mercurial?" football boot. Before that though, the main man briefly spoke to us about his Mercurial legacy, the 2018 World Cup, and the pressure surrounding Brazil's new leader, Neymar.


What was your role in the development of the Mercurial boots?

Being part of the birth of Mercurial was and is still very big for me. I remember going to the Nike Headquarter in Beaverton a couple of times to try on the boot and share my thoughts: the feel and the lightness convinced me immediately. We wanted to make a shoe that becomes the part of the body and of course we changed a lot of things during the process – the studs were round shaped first for example.

In the 90s all the football boots were extremely heavy, and then came Mercurial, which remained light even in heavy rain – this gave a big advantage for me during the game.

How did the partnership between yourself and Nike begin?

It was a very long time ago. I signed my first contract ahead of the 1994 World Cup and that was when the story began. I kept doing great things and making history in football which made it a very successful partnership because Nike became the number one brand in football too.

What do you think of the latest Mercurial Superfly 360? 

I think that back in the day it took a lot more effort with the laces to make sure the boot was tight to your foot. The flexibility of the original boot was really good but it’s kept evolving and I can’t see how Nike can continue to improve this boot any more, but I’m sure they will keep surprising us.


After all these years, how does it feel to be back in Milan?

Living in Milan was a very important part of my life. I’ve made a lot of friends here and I’m very happy to feel the atmosphere of this incredible city again.

For all the football fans, you are and will always be O Fenômeno. What do you think about that?

I am a very simple man, so first I didn’t really think about it, it was just nice. Later I understood that this has a much bigger meaning, it’s also a responsibility. The language of football is a universal way and platform of communication, and this kind of passion and emotion is what we all need in these confusing times.

Many of today’s superstars grew up inspired by you. What do you think about that?

I’m very honoured that I can be a role model for many young players. This enables me to share my passion and beliefs, the same way I was inspired by others. These players also inspire the next generations, so the story continues.


Are you looking forward to the World Cup this summer and what are your expectations?

Giving predictions on the World Cup is always very hard, but I’m optimistic about the Brazilian team. They had difficult times, but in the last years they made an incredible work and gained a lot of confidence. The injury of Neymar is very unfortunate, but I’m sure he will recover by the summer and we can also count on other very good players. However, we shouldn’t forget about the other countries – Germany always do very well in the big championships, Spain, France and Argentina also play very good.

Neymar is recovering from a recent injury. He often gets the same pressure as you did, what is your advice for him?

Many people compares his story with mine before the World Championship in 2002, but of course it’s not the same. My advice for him is to concentrate only on his well-being and to try to protect himself from the pressure as much as possible. I’m sure his recovery will be much faster than mine was, and I believe he will be there in the World Cup.


Ronaldo was speaking at the NikeLab Store in Milan to launch the new Nike "What The Mercurial?" 20th anniversary football boots.


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