The Tiempo is an absolute icon of the game. Nike’s longest lasting boot silo, it has managed to evolve throughout the years, changing with the times to ensure that it always stays relevant and ever-present on pitches at the top level of the game since its debut almost 30 years ago.

With a World Cup on home soil, Nike chose 1994 to really make its mark in football, debuting their new boot, the Tiempo Premier. In the final in California, almost half of the 22 players on the pitch were wearing Nike Tiempo Premier boots, including Golden Ball winner Romario and Italian stalwart Paolo Maldini, as Brazil were crowned champions for a fourth time following their penalty shoot out success. It was the start of a legacy that’s still going strong today, with the Tiempo Legend 9 featuring on the feet of the biggest stars on the grandest stages across the globe.

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Nike Tiempo D

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Nike Tiempo Premier

Contrary to popular belief though, the Tiempo had actually been around since 1984, it just used the 1994 World Cup to really spring board to the world’s attention, with Nike having refined the design of what was the Tiempo D to perfection in the intervening decade. As part of the marketing of the new boot and with the world now watching, Nike launched ‘The Wall’ – one of the first in the long line of iconic ads from the brand, with the Tiempo Premier featured prominently as building-sized projections of global stars passed the ball around the world.

Following on from the USA World Cup, the Tiempo became a feature on the feet of players such as Eric Cantona, Ian Wright and Ian Rush – a list that would continually grow to include the likes of Ronaldinho, Cesc Fabregas, Francesco Totti, Andrea Pirlo, Sergio Ramos and even Sergio Aguero as the years went by.

Nike had so much confidence in the design of the Tiempo Premier that it barely changed in the four years ahead of the 1998 World Cup. Some subtle tweaks (most notably the addition of a royal blue Swoosh on the soleplate) then gave us the Tiempo Premier M in time for that tournament, which saw the introduction of another long-standing silo in the Mercurial. But the Tiempo was not to be outshone and had well and truly carved its niche position in Nike’s roster.

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Over the next seven years the Tiempo barely changed, with the majority of updates coming in the soleplate. The tweaks on the underside continued right up to 2004, when the Tiempo was using the Mercurial soleplate, making it one of the lightest K-Leather boots on the market at that time – an ongoing feature of the development of the boot.

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Then came 2005 and a radical reinvention of the Tiempo line with the launch of the Nike Air Tiempo Legend. It was a huge moment in the history of the silo, and probably the most notable evidence of its versatility and ability to adapt to the demands of the changing game. Suddenly it had a more modern, sleek look that was in keeping with other boots on the market, not least the Mercurial. Along with the visuals came the improved performance elements, including a mesh tongue for increased ventilation and Zoom Air soleplate for increased support in the heel.

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Of course, in respect of the new launch and with it being marketed predominantly as being a ‘Number 10’ boot, it didn’t hurt that the world’s most famous number 10, Ballon d'Or winner and Barcelona's king of showboating, Ronaldinho was the lead face for the new generation Tiempo, and he was joined by Andrea Pirlo and Joe Cole.

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One year on and Nike updated the line again (a sign of things to come and of the dramatically sped up evolutionary process that is present in the modern day – to stand still is to fade into obscurity). The Tiempo Legend II brought a redesigned heel counter and a new stitching design to increase stability and improve touch, and it was wrapped up in an array of bright and bold colourways throughout its three-year stint.

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In late 2006 Nike bestowed a special signature edition upon their Brazilian baller. The Nike Tiempo Ronaldinho 10R was the first complete signature line Nike created exclusively for one of their football stars, but the 10R Tiempo Ronaldinho wasn’t just made for Ronaldinho – he also helped create them. It was Ronaldinho himself who, at the Nike design centre, grabbed a pen and drew a circle on the in-step of his old boots. That was the size of the sweet spot he wanted and so that is what the Nike design gurus set about creating with the Ronaldinho 10R. For starters, to provide this expanded sweetspot, a unique five-eye lacing system was developed and this was covered with a super soft fold over tongue for purer ball contact.

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Another detour from the regular Tiempo Legend line saw the release of the Tiempo Super Ligera, marketed with the slogan "Light in touch, heavy in class”. The supersoft K-leather upper and TPU outsole combined to create a boot that was 25 percent lighter than the Tiempo Legend football boots of the time. But what was probably most notable about the Super Ligera was the fact that it was one of the first to ditch the Tiempo tongue – tantamount to being sacrilegious at the time in some people’s eyes. Whilst not greatly spoken about these days, it remains a collectors piece.

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2009 saw the release of the Tiempo Legend III, which, after three years of the last model, was most welcome. But though the update was long in coming, it wasn’t all that dramatic; Nike opting to take what was a good product and simply tweak it to make it better – a hallmark of the Tiempo’s evolution and one of the main reasons why it has always been so successful. Those tweaks saw an increased quality in the K-Leather used in the upper and a higher focus on comfort and touch. 

Having been marketed as a playmakers boot for so long though, suddenly in 2009 their was this new guy in town who was claiming that title: the CTR360. It would be a release that would have a major impact on the Tiempo and its position in Nike’s setup. But the Tiempo did what the Tiempo does best – adapted and evolved. It shifted to fit into the position that it’s still seen in today: that of a control boot, hailed primarily for its unrivalled comfort.

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But there was still one playmaker who was happy to have his name attached to the Tiempo. The Tiempo Ronaldinho Dois took whatever worked on the first of the Brazilian’s signature edition and improved it even further. Like the Super Ligera, it dropped the tongue and brought in a super soft leather upper with a quilted stitch pattern (a feature that would be adopted for several years and models to come), which held the leather and prevented it from expanding and becoming misshapen whilst also cushioning touch. It also featured that rubberised heel panel for improved back heel passes – only Ronaldinho.

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In the build up to the 2010 World Cup, Nike dropped the ‘Elite Pack’, upgrading all of their existing silos. A unique two-tone colourway was spread across all five of the brand's boots, the CTR, T90, Mercurial, Superfly and Tiempo, each featuring (apart from the Mercurial) a carbon fibre soleplate. Interestingly, while the carbon fibre soleplate was the talking point for every other boot, the Tiempo Legend III Elite brought a KangaLite upper into the design as well, allowing it to boast the largest weight drop out of all the boots in the ‘Elite Pack’, and it also marked the first time a synthetic had been used on a Tiempo boot.

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Then came one of the biggest overhauls in the Legend line’s history in 2011, building off the ‘Elite Pack’ upgrades and embracing innovation for the Tiempo Legend IV – one of the most sought-after and anticipated Tiempo releases, and one of the most popular of all time, so much so that Nike paid homage to it in 2020 by coating the then current gen Tiempo Legend VIII in the same colour treatment as part of the Future DNA pack.

The Tiempo Legend IV combined the unmatched touch and feel now synonymous with the boot with innovations such as a carbon fibre plate, Flywire upper and new stud configuration, and boasted being the lightest Tiempo ever (again, at that time), coming in at 20g lighter than its predecessor. Widely appreciated, it’s no surprise that this boot lasted for two years before the next instalment.

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So the Tiempo Legend V had a very tough act to follow, but it certainly lived up to the billing. It arrived in December 2013 and it once again shed a little bit of weight, coming in 22 grams lighter that the Legend IV. It was the first time that Nike's ACC (All Conditions Control) and Hypershield technologies were used on the boot, designed to reduce water uptake, a common problem with natural leather boots.

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That year also saw the introduction of the Nike Premier line, an offshoot of the original Tiempo Premier, bringing with it the traditional feel that combined the timeless look with the latest technology. It’s an option that found favour in lower leagues, particularly the grassroots level of the game due to its no-nonsense appeal and low price point. It’s an option that’s still going strong today with the Premier III having been launched in late 2021, and it often features throwback colourways in homage to some of the best looking and iconic Tiempo’s of the past.

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Back to the main Tiempo Legend line though, and to honour the introduction of the original Nike Tiempo Boot in 1994, in January 2014 Nike released the special Tiempo Legend XX 20 Years Anniversary edition. Combining a white upper with a silver Swoosh and black applications, it was the first special edition of the Legend V and was limited to 500 pairs worldwide.

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With the Legend V now well adjusted to its role in the Nike Hierarchy, sitting alongside the Mercurial, Magista and Hypervenom, it found a new hero in the form of Roma’s Francesco Totti. Totti always favoured a bit of tongue (don’t we all?) and he continued to request the iconic flap of leather on his boots despite its removal from the general design with the launch of the Tiempo IV back in 2011. And Nike continued to oblige the Italian, delivering for him through the years. Then, in 2015 with Totti in position as Nike Football’s muse, a limited-edition Tiempo Legend V Premium was created that featured the Tiempo tongue while honouring the player who wore it. 

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The special editions kept coming for the Legend V in 2015, with the desirable limited edition Tiempo Legend "Touch of Gold", which was released to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the YouTube video that made its predecessor, the OG Nike Air Legend Tiempo, famous on the feet of Ronaldinho. A gradient treatment on the soleplate, transitioning from a clean white forefoot to a golden heel helped the premium feel of the boot, which also featured signature Ronaldinho details throughout. Like the Totti boot, there was only 3000 of these released worldwide, so you were doing well if you managed to get your hands on a pair.

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Later that year the Legend V was retired after 16 different colourways and three special editions, making way for the Tiempo Legend VI. While fans across the globe waited for Nike to make a misstep with the evolution of the Tiempo, this wasn’t it. Understated, classy and premium, the Tiempo Legend VI encapsulated everything the Tiempo line represents, modernising it to perfection. The design moved away from the favoured quilted stitch pattern in the vamp, seeking to provide the touch attributes of quilting without extensively perforating the leather. It featured an internal, cushioned cage that held its shape and grooved the leather with minimal stitching.

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The Legend VI also found another Italian fan that was controlling every game he played in with the most laid back style going… Yep, Andrea Pirlo, destroyer of England Euro 2012 dreams. Nike honoured the class of the playmaker extraordinaire with his own signature edition. Like a fine wine the Italian legend matured with age and it's there that Nike found the inspiration for the design of his signature limited edition Tiempo Legend 6 boot. 

The Tiempo Pirlo was made with an upper that featured premium Alegria leather in a merlot colourway inspired by the juice of the grape for a unique colourway. As a nod to Tiempo’s heritage and the process of producing wine, “Aged Since ’94” appeared in metallic gold on a genuine cork sockliner and also on the polka dot shoebox. The boots were even packaged in similar fashion to a bottle of wine, all nodding to Pirlo’s passion for winemaking.

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Following Pirlo Nike then returned their focus to Totti, honouring his 25-year career with Roma by producing Tiempo Totti X Roma, a special golden version of Tiempo Legend VI, complete with elongated tongue, which featured the word “Aeterno” on the inside. The Roman numeral “X” featured prominently in reference to the player’s number 10 jersey, as well as the city’s ancient history. The release was limited to 2,500 individually numbered pairs — 100 for each of his 25 professional seasons. Niek certainly know how to do a special edition right.

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Two years on and June 2017 saw the introduction of the Tiempo Legend VII, which featured integrated Flyknit for the first time, giving an enhanced fit and comfort while also coming in at 22 percent lighter than the Legend VI. It also boasted the debut of the Nike Hyperstability plate, which is designed for multi-directional movements and helped shave 60 grams off the boot. It once again didn’t let the lineage down, making marked improvements where necessary while maintaining the essence of what makes a Tiempo a Tiempo. It was around this time that it started to be adopted by defensive minded players more often, players like Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos, in what was a stark move away from the creative players of years gone by.

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Sure enough, Ramos was the next player to get his own signature edition Tiempo, with the "Corazón y Sangre” (heart and blood). Not a common sight to see a defender getting a signature edition, but Ramos was something else, deserving his pair after he won pretty much all there was to win, stopping his opponents and then joining in attacks on the way. Ramos led the design process of the limited edition boot, applying personal touches throughout. The pearl white colourway doubled up as inspiration from both Real Madrid and his affinity for white Andalusian horses. 4000 numbered pairs were made available, with Ramos keeping hold of the 0004 pair for himself.

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The change over came like clockwork, two years later in 2019. Retaining the premium K-leather and Hyperstability plate, the majority of changes to the Tiempo Legend VIII came on the inside. A new Flyknit Fit Tunnel was created to provide a supportive, snug fit around the mid-foot, while the diamond-effect on the outside gave it a unique look. Nothing to complain about with the upgrades here, but it was one of the smaller evolutionary leaps that we’ve seen over the years.

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And that brings us to 2021 and the release of the current Tiempo Legend IX. True to form it does not forget the soul of the boot, and what has gifted the line such longevity – namely comfort and control in abundance – while it is also a supremely progressive design, typified by the fact it is the lightest Tiempo to date, taking the weight from the Tiempo VIII’s 228g (Size 9) down to 207g. The upper abandons the diamond shape design in the vamp of its predecessor, instead featuring raised textures backed by soft foam pods in key areas where foot connects with ball, allowing for for precise dribbling, passing, and shooting. Brings back proper CTR vibes – ironic given the impact that boot had on the Tiempo’s positioning. But look who’s still standing, marching on as the longest lasting boot in Nike’s repertoire and showing no signs of stopping.

From Ronaldinho showing us all that the Tiempo is not bound by a skill set or position all the way to where we stand today, the Tiempo Legend has made its history by always being present in the biggest moments and by always delivering the goods, continually adapting and remaining a relevant fixture on the pitch. Legend status well and truly earned.

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