Creative Soccer Culture

The Top 10 Most Iconic Footballs Of All Time

What is football without the ball? (10 points to those that said ‘foot’, now sit down and be quiet). Alongside the players, the ball is the only other really essential ingredient for a kick about, and over the years footballs have evolved to match the demands of the game, with data-driven designs creating iconic looks, which in turn have helped produce iconic moments.

Certain competitions are synonymous with certain balls, thanks to long lasting partnerships and memorable moments. Moments such as the ball being stroked effortlessly across the full length of the pitch by Pele and co, before being emphatically swept into the net by Carlos Alberto as Brazil beat Italy to win the World Cup back in 1970; Johan Cruyff creating one of the most iconic moves the game has ever seen – so much so that it was named after him – when he sold Jan Olsson the mother of all dummies with the subtlest of swerves; Dennis Bergkamp’s famous turn and finish against Newcastle that left Nikos Dabizas floundering and the rest of the footballing world in awe; or a young Wayne Rooney announcing himself to the world with his wonder volley past a despairing David Seaman. It’s these moments that help make the balls so special, and it’s the balls that make these special moments possible. 

Looking back on over four decades of action from some of the best competitions in the world, we've compiled a list of what we think are the 10 most iconic footballs of all time.

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10. adidas +Teamgeist (2006 World Cup) – Starting, as all balls should, with a revolution. The +Teamgeist was the first ball to vary from the 32 panels initially introduced in 1970, as 14 curved panels made up the glorious design. It was questioned for unpredictable flight, highlighted in the very first game of the tournament when Philipp Lahm and Torsten Frings scored spectacular goals that visibly dipped and swerved in the air. Evened out though when Alessandro Del Piero’s perfectly executed chip into the top corner broke German hearts and sent the hosts crashing out.

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9. Nike Seitiro (Premier League 2011/12) – The Seitiro was the first ball since 2003/04 not to carry the T90 mark, instead bringing a graphic that was crafted for optimal visual signal on pitch. Going out on a high, the Seitiro's final contribution to the Premier league was a spectacular one, with practically the last ever of kick of it coming from Sergio Aguero to hand Manchester City the title. Agueroooooo!

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8. adidas Tricolore (1998 World Cup) – The final World Cup ball to feature the iconic Tango design, and the first time a colour other than black and white was introduced, with the graphic taking on a blue colouring with hints of red, all on that white base to tie in with the flag that it was named after. Owen slaloming through the Argentinian defence before sumptuously slamming the Tricolore past the stranded keeper, anyone? How about R9 debuting his new boot, the Mercurial, with the ball at his feet? 

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7. adidas Fevernova (2002 World Cup) – The first World Cup ball to move away from the Tango template, the Fevernova introduced a fresh new look for adidas, with that fiery graphic. In honesty, it was between this and the Brazuca… But this is a golden ball… the ball David Beckham found redemption with as he slammed it home from the spot against Argentina. Couldn’t not be on the list, could it?

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6. adidas Finale (Champions League 2000/03) – In 2000, adidas took charge of the Champions League contract, initially supplying the match ball for the semi-final and final only. After 20 years, that instantly recognisable star design has become synonymous with the competition, altering colours with each passing year. We’ve plumped for the second-season ball, purely on the basis of Zinedine Zidane scoring one of the greatest goals in a final ever. 

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5. Mitre Ultimax (Premier League 1995 – 2000) Building on the legacy of the Mitre Pro Max and the Mitre Delta before it (both unlucky not to feature on this list themselves), the Mitre Ultimax exists as the longest serving official match ball in Premier League history, a record it’s likely to keep. The first ball ever to be recorded at over 100mph, it was described by Mitre as the 'world's fastest and most accurate football’. Sure some memories of this will be of the sting you felt after being hit with it on a cold day.

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4. Nike Total 90 Aerow (Premier League 2004/05) – In 2004 Nike brought out the T90 Aerow, a ball that would go on to last four generations. And in that Hi-Vis yellow with the blue ring? Forget about it. You could absolutely ping it and if you caught it sweetly on the half volley you could knock down a small 2 bedroomed bungalow. Fact. The first T90 ball coincided with Chelsea's first ever Premier League title and Everton's James Vaughan becoming the youngest ever Premier League goalscorer aged 16 years and 271 days when he stuck it in the net against Palace.

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3. adidas Telstar (1970 World Cup) – The first ball to feature a hexagonal/pentagonal design (32 hand stitched panels of 12 black pentagons and 20 white hexagons), the Telstar is now the definition of a football worldwide. Don't believe us? Just check your emojis. Originally introduced to help supporters recognise the ball on their black and white television sets, making it the star of the television. Get it, Tel(evision) Star.

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2. Nike Geo Merlin Vapor I (Premier League 2000/01– 2001/02) – Nike took over from Mitre at the turn of the millennium with their debut Premier League ball – The Geo Merlin, beginning a dynasty that continues today. Think Premier League, think Nike footballs. Charlton's Andy hunt was the first player to score with the Geo Merlin, which clocked up a total of 1,992 goals over a two year stay in England's top flight, including Les Ferdinand scoring the 10,000th Premier League goal.

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1. adidas Tango (1978 World Cup) – Talk about lasting legacies and iconic moments, this ball had it all. 1978 saw the introduction of the Tango, a design that didn’t fundamentally change until 2002, with its interlocking triad graphics forming circles around the sphere. 24 years of iconic moments. And it all started with this original Tango. It was the ball with which Archie Gemmil scored his worldy against the much vaunted Dutch – Mark Renton wouldn't feel that good again until he met Diane.

Honourable mentions for the adidas Brazuca, Mitre Delta and Pro Max, Total 90 Omni and Tracer. Feel free to disagree with us on social media…

The Mitre Ultimax was rereleased recently and is available from

Daniel Jones

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