Dusan Vlahović is one of the hottest strikers in Europe right now, and he underlined his red hot form and ability with a debut goal for Juventus on the weekend. But could he be yet another striker who’s set to leave Nike?

Young Serbian striker Dušan Vlahović was one of the most in-demand strikers in the game during this January transfer window, after racking up 38 league goals over an 18 month period with Fiorentina, more than any other active player in the same time period. In the first part of the 21/22 season he already had 20 goals in 24 appearances in both Serie A and Coppa Italia, and those numbers rise to 41 in 64 appearances if totalled with those from the 20/2021 season. Put simply, Vlahović is a goal machine, and these numbers are why Juventus were quick to splash out £66million to bring him to the Allianz Arena.

A goal on his debut for the Old Lady suggests that he’ll just pick up right where he left off at Fiorentina in terms of scoring. But along with the colour of his shirt, something else had changed about the striker in the 2-0 win over Verona; instead of an line colourway for his Nike Mercurial Vapors, Vlahović was wearing the ‘Nuovo White Pack’ Mercurial Vapor XIII from 2019. What this suggests is that the Serbian is currently not under contract with Nike and is free to wear whatever he chooses. 

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Vlahović has been a Nike athlete for his whole professional career to date, wearing the Nike Phantom VNM as he emerged in the senior game, before switching into the Mercurial Superfly and then Vapor, so could he now be available for one of the other brands to snap up? You’ve got to imagine that he’d be high on any wish list, just as he was this January. What this could also do is create another interesting dimension to what had appeared to potentially be a two-way battle for supremacy on the pitch in the coming years…

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Having only turned 22 on the day he signed for Juve (28 January) Vlahović is fast marking himself out as a player to rival the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland. Mbappé, as everyone knows, is Nike’s golden boy, already in place as the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo. His presence on the throne seems to have already ushered Haaland towards the Swoosh exit door, with the Norwegian searching for pastures new, somewhere where he can be established as the next-gen main man. It looks like PUMA are leading that race, although nothing is yet set in stone. While we argued previously that adidas should to target Haaland to stay relevant in the battle of the brands, Vlahović’s switch to Juventus and his possible availability has certainly opened a new and surely appealing option for the Three Stripes.

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Juventus and adidas are in the middle of what has been a very fruitful partnership to date, developing and strengthening with every passing year, building to the crescendo that was the immense Palace crossover in 2019. The deal has since been extended to 2027, and so it has good years left to run. For that first five years, Ronaldo was a key man in the Bianconeri setup, but as a Nike man the synergy never quite sat well. Now, with the apparent availability of Vlahović coinciding with his move to Juventus, it feels like the stars aligning for adidas. Their star man for the last decade, Lionel Messi, has always been at Nike-sponsored teams, and while the same can be said of Ronaldo always being at adidas-sponsored teams, Mbappé is at PSG – for now at least. Heck, Vlahović is even in Ronaldo’s old number. Now, if Haaland goes to PUMA-sponsored Man City…

The possibility of having the key man at a Juventus side that is starting to show signs of getting back to its best would surely be something that adidas would be more than a little interested in. Following on from the Messi and Ronaldo era, many assumed it would be a new battle between the next two best players in world football, given added emphasis by the brand wars and the players representing the opposing sides of it. But could we now be set for a three-way tussle for supremacy? Nike have Mbappé, PUMA could tie up Haaland, leaving adidas to snap up Vlahović.

Sure it’s only speculation at this stage, with two of those three mentioned actually currently without a contract at all, but if you’re going to speculate, may as well do it right. Competition only raises performance, and that’s applicable both in terms of the players themselves and what they do on the pitch, but also of the brands, and the products they can produce. Yep, all for a bit of healthy competition.

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Stay fixed for any developments on Vlahović's boot situation...