Player name: Lionel Andrés Messi
Clubs: Newell's Old Boys, FC Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain
Height: 5 ft 7 in
Lionel Messi is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward for Ligue 1 side Paris Saint Germain and captains the Argentina national team. Often considered as the best player in the world and widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Messi has won a record seven Ballon d'Or awards and a record six European Golden Shoes and in 2020 was named to the Ballon d'Or Dream Team. Until 2021, he spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, where he won a club-record 35 trophies, including ten La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles and seven Copa del Rey titles. A prolific goalscorer and creative playmaker, Messi holds the records for most goals in La Liga (474), a La Liga and European league season (50), most hat-tricks in La Liga (36) and the UEFA Champions League (8), and most assists in La Liga (192), a La Liga season (21) and the Copa América (17). He also holds the record for most international goals by a South American male (81). Messi has scored over 750 senior career goals for club and country, and has the most goals by a player for a single club.
Born and raised in central Argentina, Messi relocated to Spain to join Barcelona at age 13, for whom he made his competitive debut aged 17 in October 2004. He established himself as an integral player for the club within the next three years, and in his first uninterrupted season in 2008–09 he helped Barcelona achieve the first treble in Spanish football; that year, aged 22, Messi won his first Ballon d'Or. Three successful seasons followed, with Messi winning four consecutive Ballons d'Or, making him the first player to win the award four times and in a row. During the 2011–12 season, he set the La Liga and European records for most goals scored in a single season, while establishing himself as Barcelona's all-time top scorer. The following two seasons, Messi finished second for the Ballon d'Or behind Cristiano Ronaldo (his perceived career rival), before regaining his best form during the 2014–15 campaign, becoming the all-time top scorer in La Liga and leading Barcelona to a historic second treble, after which he was awarded a fifth Ballon d'Or in 2015. Messi assumed the captaincy of Barcelona in 2018, and in 2019 he secured a record sixth Ballon d'Or.
Here we present to you a pair of Adidas X Speedflow.1 football boots which were worn by the greatest player of all time, the man himself, Leo Messi. This particular pair are from the "Sapphire Edge" pack which were only released to the public in January of this year, with Messi using this exact pair between January and February whilst playing for Paris Saint Germain, whom he transferred to at the start of the 2021-22 season. Acquiring any match worn items from players of Leo's status is a near impossible task as it is, let alone with the boots being used so recent, these really are a true diamond of a pick up! In this blog we will show up close photographs, along with details of all of the differences and modifications in which Messi has to his version of the X Speedflow.1 over the standard mass produced retail version in which Adidas sell to the public.
Due to his short stature, Messi has a lower centre of gravity than taller players, which gives him greater agility, allowing him to change direction more quickly and evade opposing tackles; this led the Spanish media to dub him La Pulga Atómica ("The Atomic Flea"). Despite being physically unimposing, he possesses significant upper-body strength, which, combined with his low centre of gravity and resulting balance, aids him in withstanding physical challenges from opponents; he has consequently been noted for his lack of diving in a sport rife with playacting. His short, strong legs allow him to excel in short bursts of acceleration while his quick feet enable him to retain control of the ball when dribbling at speed. His former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola once stated, "Messi is the only player that runs faster with the ball than he does without it." Although he had improved his ability with his weaker foot since his mid-20s, Messi is predominantly a left-footed player; with the outside of his left foot, he usually begins dribbling runs, while he uses the inside of his foot to finish and provide passes and assists.
As is the case with most of Adidas' top elite sponsored athletes, Leo Messi's boots are custom made to measure by hand in their Athlete Services factory located in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Incidentally, this is also the location of Adidas' headquarters. In this factory they produce totally bespoke equipment for their endorsed athletes who may require specific modifications in order to allow them to play at their maximum performance level during competition, as well as football boots they also produce custom items such as goalkeeper gloves and running shoes for their endorsers. Prior to 2012, boots from this factory featured a different style of internal size label to the one we see above, with them typically stating "Sample" & "MTM" (made to measure). Leo Messi as we can see here wears a UK size 8 in both feet - Adidas state the left & right shoe sizes here as some players wear odd sizing to meet their needs, such as Gabriel Jesus who is L 8.75 / R 8.5. The above label has been stitched to the insole, rather than bonded to the interior lining of the boots.
On 10 August, Messi joined French club Paris Saint-Germain. He signed a two-year deal until June 2023 with an option for an extra year. Messi chose 30 as his squad number, the same he wore as a teenager when he made his senior debut for Barcelona. Messi made his debut for the club on 29 August, coming on as a substitute in the second half of a 2–0 away win over Reims in Ligue 1. He made his first start and UEFA Champions League debut for the club in a 1–1 away draw against Club Brugge on 15 September. Four days later, Messi made his home debut for PSG in a 2–1 win over Lyon. On 28 September, he scored his first goal for the club, a strike from the edge of the 18-yard box after playing a one-two with Kylian Mbappé, in a 2–0 Champions League group stage win over Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. On 21 November, Messi scored his first Ligue 1 goal in a 3–1 home victory over Nantes. On 28 November, he provided a hat-trick of assists for the fifth time in his career as PSG beat Saint-Étienne 3–1 away from home. Having scored 40 goals at club and international level for the calendar year and helped Argentina win the 2021 Copa América, Messi received a record seventh Ballon d'Or on 29 November. On 23 April 2022, Messi scored a sublime finish into the top corner from outside of the box vs Lens at the Parc des Princes, confirming that Leo adds yet another league title to his collection, this time, the Ligue 1 title.
Continuing on from the size label being stitched to the insoles, above we can see the actual insoles themselves, and they differ greatly to those that come with the standard retail version of the X Speedflow.1, as is to be expected. Many top professional football players wear orthopaedic, or othotic, insoles in their boots during both training & competition use as, bio-mechanically, it is vital that they get the best insoles to suit their individual needs to help prevent injury and aid in comfort when wearing. Above we can see Messi's insoles which follow a more emphasised and dramatic curvature than you'd normally expect from an insole, further down in this blog you'll see that this feature also links to the rest of the boots in terms of shape, and that they are also lined in a totally different material. Leo's insoles are constructed from a white padded foam material which is thicker than usual, along with the lining material being made from a luxurious suede material, which is natural rather than synthetic... well, as the size label says, "Only The Best For The Athlete!".
Did you know - As Barcelona's leading youth prospect, he had been signed with Nike since age 14, but transferred to Adidas after they successfully challenged their rival's claim to his image rights in court. Over time, Messi established himself as their leading brand endorser; from 2008, he had a long-running signature collection of Adidas F50 boots, and in 2015, he became the first footballer to receive his own sub-brand of Adidas boots, the Adidas Messi.
The custom insoles have also been made extremely wide, again all in the aim of meeting Messi's exact measurements, most specifically in the midfoot area. Above, we can see that Adidas have (somehow!) added more padding to both the lateral and medial sides of each insole and attached it to the main part of the insole, further attached buy the suede lining on top. The perforations on both the top and underside are again also different to the retail insoles, with the top featuring none whatsoever, and the bottom featuring none in the midfoot area and circular ones in both the heel and forefoot areas. All of these differences will aid to the experience Leo gets when wearing them, the perforations however, I'm not so sure just how much difference they'll make! But if the king requests it to Adidas, he certainly deserves to get it. After all, he is their highest profile endorser by quite some margin and has been throughout most of his career. Messi has endorsed sportswear company since 2006, and according to France Football, he was the world's highest-paid footballer for five years out of six between 2009 and 2014, and was ranked the world's highest-paid athlete by Forbes in 2019.
Upon removing the insoles from the shoes and having analysed them, we can spot further modifications inside the boots themselves. Typically the X Speedflow.1 features a sort of forefoot board, with the heel and midfoot area being covered in a very thin synthetic material, which whilst this construction type does help in reducing the weight of the boots, it can make them a little flimsy with the strength solely reliant on the Speedframe outsole in the rear area of the boot. Messi's pair however, feature an incredibly thick reinforced insole board, which essentially is one thick plate running the entire length of each shoe from heel to toe. So a totally different construction to the retail version. This provides the boot much more rigidity and limits the overall flimsyness (if that's a word!) of the boots, which will of course add some protection. The responsiveness is interesting, as the only form of flex at all is in the forefoot area, and even then it requires a great deal of force for the boots to bend naturally. This modification would suggest that these days, Leo likes his boots to be practically solid in their main construction! The sticker label inside the heel states the production date "10/21" in this case October 2021, along with "502001" which is the factory number for the Adidas Athlete Services factory in Germany. The rest of the codes relate to Leo's internal information inside the factory, such as the boot specification and the foot last (mould).
An Argentine international, Messi is both his country's highest appearance-maker and their all-time leading goalscorer. At youth level, he won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, finishing the tournament with both the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe, and an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. His style of play as a diminutive, left-footed dribbler drew comparisons with his compatriot Diego Maradona, who described Messi as his successor. After his senior debut in August 2005, Messi became the youngest Argentine to play and score in a FIFA World Cup in 2006, and reached the final of the 2007 Copa América, where he was named young player of the tournament. As the squad's captain from August 2011, he led Argentina to three consecutive finals: the 2014 FIFA World Cup, for which he won the Golden Ball, and the 2015 and 2016 Copa América, winning the Golden Ball in the 2015 edition. After announcing his international retirement in 2016, he reversed his decision and led his country to qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, a third-place finish at the 2019 Copa América, and won the 2021 Copa América, while winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot award for the latter. This achievement would see him receive a record seventh Ballon d'Or in 2021.
This pair have been made extremely wide in order to meet Messi's foot measurements, and the custom insole boards which have been built in further aid the overall shape of the boots. The width in the midfoot especially is vastly apparent when having the boots in hand, and the curvature is also very visible - both of these features linking in sync with the custom insoles in which we mentioned further up in this blog. Every single element of the boots, totally, totally custom for the GOAT.
Resuming with the interior section of Messi's custom match worn boots, let's take a look at the heel area. The retail variant of the X Speedflow.1 model featured 2 pillow style cushions in the heel area as the only form of interior padding there, with a thin synthetic lining. Messi's pair however, feature an immense amount of padding throughout this area which actually runs up until the midfoot area, and from the bottom of the heel right up to the top of the tab. The lining material is a very soft pink fabric material, as opposed to that thin synthetic of the retail variant. The thickness of the padding on the medial side can be seen in the picture above, as it is actually pushing the size label in at an angle.
In 2020, Messi became the second footballer (and second athlete in a team sport), after Cristiano Ronaldo, to surpass $1 billion in earnings during their careers. As a commercial entity, Messi's marketing brand has been based exclusively on his talents and achievements as a player, in contrast to arguably more glamorous players like Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham. With the 34 year old having lifted the Ligue 1 title with PSG this month, it takes Leo to 39 career title triumphs, 3 shy of former teammate and current record holder, Dani Alves.
We've taken a look at the interior of the heels, now let's take a look at the external part of the heels, and my oh my are there a lot of differences here! The area of Primeknit material which contains the "X" logo branding typically is rather thin and flimsy on the retail version, due to the main focus there being weight saving, it also contained a thin synthetic edge which ran around the top edge of that material. Leo's pair feature thicker padding in this area (mostly due to the interior, as explained further above) and do not have that thin synthetic edge, they instead feature that Primeknit right up to the top and it is from there stitched to that soft pink fabric of the interior lining. Crazy comfort levels here! A line of additional stitching also runs around the centre of the heel in a "U" fashion which is not on the retail variant.
Where the retail version of the Adidas X Speedflow.1 uses the external heel counter of the Speedframe outsole as its only form of structure and protection, this is not the case with Lionel Messi's custom bespoke version. Whilst they do have that external heel counter, Adidas have also manufactured in a thick and incredibly strong internal heel counter, which actually runs right up to the midfoot area and covers the entirety of the heels internally. This also allows Adidas to increase the width of the heels dramatically, again to meet the exact measurements of Messi's feet. The heels overall are also around 15mm taller than usual, which can be visibly seen in the pictures above by the height/thickness of the centre piece material when looking from the direct rear view. Messi's custom heels then we could say are closer to the X Speedflow.1 Turf version rather than the football boot version when comparing to the retail options. Here we can also see some of the personalisation in which Adidas have added for Messi, with his national flag of Argentina to the lateral side of the right boot, and the number "10" to the lateral side of the left. Now, we all know that Leo wears number 30 at PSG, so why have 10 on his PSG boots... superstition? Who knows! Another point worth mentioning, is that on Leo's training boots he has the Argentina flag & number 10 reversed, with them being on the left and right boots respectively.
The rest of the personalisation comes on the medial side of the boots. Messi has the name of his with "Anto", since 2008 Leo has been in a relationship with Antonela Roccuzzo, a fellow native of Rosario. He has known Roccuzzo since he was five years old, as she is the cousin of his childhood best friend, Lucas Scaglia, who is also a football player. After keeping their relationship private for a year, Messi first confirmed their romance in an interview in January 2009, before going public a month later during a carnival in Sitges after the Barcelona–Espanyol derby. He also has the names of his 3 son's and their dates of birth. "Ciro 10 03 18", "Thiago 02 11 12" & "Mateo 11 09 15" written on his boots. To celebrate his partner's first pregnancy, Messi placed the ball under his shirt after scoring in Argentina's 4–0 win against Ecuador on 2 June 2012, before confirming the pregnancy in an interview two weeks later. Thiago was born in Barcelona with Messi attending the birth after being given permission by Barcelona to miss training. Thiago's name and handprints are famously tattooed on his magical left calf. He missed training ahead of a match against Atlético Madrid to attend the birth of his second son, Mateo, on 11 September 2015 in Barcelona. On 30 June 2017, he married Roccuzzo at a luxury hotel named Hotel City Center in Rosario with about 260 guests attending his wedding, and on 10 March 2018, Messi skipped the match against Málaga after Ciro was born.
A prodigious talent as a teenager, Messi established himself among the world's best players before age 20. Diego Maradona considered the 18-year-old Messi the best player in the world alongside Ronaldinho, while the Brazilian himself, shortly after winning the Ballon d'Or, commented, "I'm not even the best at Barça", in reference to his protégé. Four years later, after Messi had won his first Ballon d'Or by a record margin, the public debate regarding his qualities as a player moved beyond his status in contemporary football to the possibility that he was one of the greatest players in history. An early proponent was his then-manager Pep Guardiola, who, as early as August 2009, declared Messi to be the best player he had ever seen. In the following years, this opinion gained greater acceptance among pundits, managers, former and current players, and by the end of Barça's second treble-winning season, Messi's superiority, ahead of Maradona and Pelé, had become the apparent view among many fans and pundits in continental Europe. He initially received several dismissals by critics, based on the fact that he had not won an international trophy at senior level with Argentina, until he won his first international trophy at the 2021 Copa América.
Let's move onto the upper of the boots, and this is one of the more well known modifications in which Leo has on his boots within the football boot world, it is a well talked about subject to say the least. Rather than the one piece upper of the retail version X Speedflow.1, Messi's pair feature a split tongue design which is commonly known as the "Burrito" tongue. It is a completely bespoke construction and manufacturing process just for Leo, the medial side of the Primeknit material is not connected to the rest of the upper, with the material itself being made to be extra long and extended so that when wearing the boots, the material wraps around the medial side of Messi's feet. There is an additional line of stitching right at the bottom of the lacing system in a "V" shape. The underside of this custom "Burrito" tongue has actually got an additional piece of padded material which has been fused to the knit material to make the boots even more comfortable for the player.
The way in which this material has been made extended and wraps around the medial side of the midfoot area is somewhat reminiscent of the "FlyKnit tunnel" found on the Nike Tiempo Legend 8, which funnily enough wasn't a piece of technology that was greatly received by the general consumer. The raised pull tab type section of the knitted material is in the centre on the retail version, however with Messi's pair it is much further over to the medial side. Just a small detail, but again it's yet another difference.
Now then, lets talk soleplates, because on Messi's pair this is certainly one of the most interesting and discretely bespoke points. Whilst his pair does feature the Speedframe outsole, it is a totally custom mould and design just for Leo. His version does still feature that carbon fibre plate in the forefoot along with the 3D diamond style affect throughout the design, however the midfoot area on Messi's version is noticeably thicker and more reinforced. This is hard to see visibly in pictures, but it is very apparent when in hand side by side with a retail equivalent. All of the studs themselves have been laid out in their specific positions, with millimetre precision. Whilst the blue central stud has remained in the same place as the retail variant, it is a different shape with it being a diamond as opposed to an arrow. The other two blue studs in the forefoot area have been placed further back, with them closer to the midfoot than the retail variant. The two middle pink studs in the forefoot area have also been placed slightly further back, but more notably they are actually placed wider (both the lateral and medial sides) with them being right on the edge of the soleplate mould.
Throughout his career, Messi has been compared with his late compatriot Diego Maradona, due to their similar playing styles as diminutive, left-footed dribblers. Initially, he was merely one of many young Argentine players, including his boyhood idol Pablo Aimar, to receive the "New Maradona" moniker, but as his career progressed, Messi proved his similarity beyond all previous contenders, establishing himself as the greatest player Argentina had produced since Maradona. Jorge Valdano, who won the 1986 World Cup alongside Maradona, said in October 2013, "Messi is Maradona every day. For the last five years, Messi has been the Maradona of the World Cup in Mexico." César Menotti, who as manager orchestrated their 1978 World Cup victory, echoed this sentiment when he opined that Messi plays "at the level of the best Maradona". Other notable Argentines in the sport, such as Osvaldo Ardiles, Javier Zanetti, and Diego Simeone, have expressed their belief that Messi has overtaken Maradona as the best player in history.
Above: a side by side photo match of Leo using this pair, here from this shot we can see the bespoke outsole, heel & "10" personalisation in action.
With the pictures above we can take an even closer look at Messi's bespoke stud configuration set up, being able to see further the differentiation in stud positioning when we compare them to the retail stud set up. Every single stud on this outsole is a different shape to its retail equivalent, the front two and rear two studs have been made conical (rounded) which is known as the 'Gambatrax' soleplate. Messi has had this on every single pair of his boots since the 2010 F50 Adizero, which he first used at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Since then, all of his FG boots have featured those four special studs - Adidas even added these to public release boots on the Messi 15.1 model. With this match worn pair, Adidas have even incorperated his custom logo into the mould of the central diamond shaped stud in the forefoot - fine details! The remainder of the studs are all shaped triangularly rather than in the aggressive bladed set up of the retail version. It is worth noting that whilst this bespoke outsole is absolutely incredible, it would only be suited to the very elite level pitches in which the likes of Leo play on day in day out. Would certainly say that it is not something that would work on a regular boggy Sunday league pitch!
In terms of the shape of the boots in an overall sense, they are also unique in this area too, as with all other areas of the boots. Messi's pair follow a unique curvature from heel to toe (as mentioned at the start of this blog with the insoles & insole boards) where the midfoot appears to be more tucked in and the lateral side following a consistent curve. Typically, where mass produced boots for the retail market are made around a generic last, the lateral side of the boots would naturally come in towards the midfoot - Messi's pair do the opposite to this. The width of his match worn X Speedflow.1 is quite a marvel to look at, and when combined with the shape of the rest of the boots, shows just how different they are to the standard version.
When Leo Messi eventually retires he will most certainly go down in history as a true magician of the game. He is already widely regarded as the greatest player of all time by many within the football world, and at 34 years of age, he still has years left in him at the elite level. What do you think of his bespoke match worn Adidas X Speedflow.1 football boots? Let us know in the comments!