Player name: Lionel Andrés Messi
Clubs: Newell's Old Boys, FC Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain, Inter Miami
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've got our hands on yet another pair of match worn football boots of the GOAT himself, Leo Messi. This pair however, aren't any 'ordinary' pair (if we can even call the other pairs ordinary!), this particular pair were worn during the 2021 Copa América, when the man himself captained the Argentina national team to glory on the international stage! After a long and painful wait for triumph in this area of his footballing career, Messi put in stellar performances throughout the tournament which ultimately drove Argentina's success, and this pair right here were part of making history during that summer of 2021! These in particular are the special edition 'El Retorno' model which Adidas designed solely for Messi, not other contracted Adidas player was allowed to use them, they pay homage to that iconic goal he scored way back in 2007 in the Copa del Rey vs Getafe, wearing the +F30. In this blog we are going to delve into every difference between Leo's actual boots vs the ones sold to the public on the retail market.
Oh, did we say "pair" implying just one? We have actually got our hands on TWO pairs of Leo's Copa América match worn, fully custom boots! Both pairs feature the exact same modifications as each other as is to be expected. During the tournament it is estimated that Messi had at least 4 pairs of his custom 'El Retorno' boots available to him as Adidas as his sponsor have to over supply the player with match equipment rather than under supply as a precaution in case one pair has a failure, he can hop straight into another pair. This is vital at any time in the season, but especially for a major international tournament. But anyway, let's take a look at what those modifications actually are...
On 14 June 2021, Messi scored from a free kick in a 1–1 draw against Chile in Argentina's opening group match of the 2021 Copa América in Brazil. On 21 June, Messi played in his 147th match as he equalled Javier Mascherano's record for most appearances for Argentina in a 1–0 win over Paraguay in their third game of the tournament. A week later, he broke the record when he featured in a 4–1 win against Bolivia in his team's final group match, assisting Papu Gómez's opening goal and later scoring two. On 3 July, Messi assisted twice and scored from a free-kick in a 3–0 win over Ecuador in the quarter-finals of the competition. On 6 July, in a 1–1 draw in the semi-finals against Colombia, Messi made his 150th appearance for his country and registered his fifth assist of the tournament, a cut-back for Lautaro Martínez, matching his record of nine goal contributions in a single tournament from five years earlier; he later scored his spot kick in Argentina's eventual 3–2 penalty shoot-out victory to progress to his fifth international final. On 10 July, Argentina defeated hosts and defending champions Brazil 1–0 in the final, giving Messi his first major international title and Argentina's first since 1993, as well as his nation's joint record 15th Copa América overall. Messi was directly involved in nine out of the 12 goals scored by Argentina, scoring four and assisting five; he was named the player of the tournament for his performances, an honour he shared with Neymar. He also finished as top scorer with four goals tied with Colombia's Luis Díaz, with the Golden Boot awarded to Messi as he had more assists.
Our avid followers will of course know by now, but if you're new here, this will be something you will be seeing a lot of and is certainly an interesting fact! Leo Messi's boots are custom made in Germany by Adidas' Athlete Services division which is located at their HQ in Herzogenaurach. Here in this factory, the craftsmen inside make the equipment of only the top elite level sponsored Adidas players such as boots, GK gloves and so on. If you have a favorite football star who wears Adidas boots, it's most likely that they were specially made in this factory - not like the retail versions sold to the public! Everything from build quality, materials used, attention to detail and so on, are levels above the products available on the retail market. Above we can see that this pair are Leo's typically size UK8, which equates to an 8.5 in US sizing. The label itself bares Adidas' motto "Only The Best For The Athlete!" along with "Made in Germany", "Athlete Services" and the address of the location. They also state the left & right sizes separately, as some players have odd sized feet, and Adidas cater for this.
Boots made inside the Athlete Services factory also tend to contain a sticker inside the heel area, underneath where the insoles would sit. This label contains information such as production date, factory code, art no. etc. Above we can see that this pair were manufactured for Messi in April 2021 "04/21". Typically, retail items are produced 6+ months prior to being available to purchase as they have to pass through many procedures such as quality control and so on, they are then shipped half the way across the world from the factories (Adidas are usually Indonesia, Vietnam, China) and prepared for sale once distributed to the retailers. However this process of course differs greatly for the sponsored player items. Usually the players are supplied their equipment for a big tournament a couple of weeks prior, and with the Copa América 2021 starting in June of that year, this pair would've been supplied to Leo from Adidas around the 3rd week of May. The reason the production date is so close to the use date is simply that these items do not go through extra processes after being manufactured, because the factory go into so much detail due to the bespoke nature of the items, it is unnecessary. They are also shipped, or in some cases personally delivered, direct to the player from the factory in Germany.
Before the success at the Maracana, Messi had lost three consecutive finals in a three-year span -- the first coming in a 1-0 defeat to Germany at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, before they were beaten by Chile in the Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016. "I have peace of mind of having achieved the dream that has been denied to me so many times," Messi told ESPN while on international duty. "It was like a dream, a spectacular moment. I couldn't believe it had happened. I enjoy watching the images now more than at the time as I was in a daze. I didn't quite understand what was happening." Asked about how he felt following the defeats, Messi added: "A part of the media treated us as failures, saying that we didn't feel the [responsibility] of wearing the jersey, that we shouldn't be in the national team. "We tried to be champions before, we were the first ones to want to. It's very difficult to win a World Cup or a Copa America. At the time they didn't value what we did, they only put emphasis on the fact that we didn't achieve the aim. The important thing is to feel satisfied that you have given your all...luckily, the last time [final] was different." Above, we can see Leo turning one of the best defenders on the planet at the time, Thiago Silva, inside out.
An avid family man, Leo always keeps the personalisation on his boots revolved around the most important people in his life - his wife & children. Above we can see Adidas have added the names of his children along with their dates of birth "THIAGO 02 11 12", "MATEO 11 09 15" & "CIRO 10 03 18", along with his wife's name "ANTO" which is short for Antonella. Messi has been in a relationship with Antonela Roccuzzo since 2008, a fellow native of his hometown 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. The medial side of each boot bares his iconic number 10 along with the national flag of Argentina.
In the above shot we can see a side by side shot of the lateral side profile from the regular version vs Messi's custom version. Straight away we can see that the shape of Messi's pair is totally different, especially in the forefoot area with the profile and internal volume appearing very low. The soleplate itself is also much flatter, with much less rise in the toe area, all signs of just how bespoke made the boots actually are. The piece of knit material which runs from the heel area and around to the top of the foot is also a considerable amount narrower on Messi's pair in comparison to the retail version in that area, which we'd say is largely down to the special tongue design which we go into more detail with next.
The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was voted the player of the tournament after contributing four goals and five assists in the competition. "Everything I won was important and beautiful, but this was the most difficult because I went through many things...it was knock after knock," Messi said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic and the late change of Copa America venue, which was scheduled to be played in Colombia and Argentina. "I finally had happy holidays from the first day to the last. Before I was bitter and now it was different from start to finish. My children sing Argentina songs all the time, they remember the final against Brazil, and for me it's spectacular to see how they enjoy that. "Every other minute they tell me: 'Dad, you were champion' I can't explain it. I would have loved for my family to be at the Copa America, but they were unable to be present at any game, even the final. It was a bit the price we had to pay. We were champions just when they couldn't be there."
An iconic modification of Messi's since the Adidas Nemeziz was released back in 2017 is the special split tongue design, which is commonly known as the 'burrito tongue'. This unique design is vastly different from the one piece upper design found on the retail version and required Adidas to create a whole new manufacturing process in order to achieve it, as the regular upper could not be simply cut, so to speak, and the end result be like this. Messi really was not a fan of the fully one piece knitted uppers on the newer generation Adidas boots where they fully ditched incorporating any sort of tongue, Messi's first custom versions in the period of 2017-2019 featured this burrito style tongue but it actually wrapped around the foot the opposite way. Above, we can see that on the newer versions Messi preferred the tongue to wrap around the medial side of each foot.
The knitted material of the tongue itself features a thick layer of padding on the underside which covers the entirety of the material, this provides more cushioning for Messi completely eradicating the potential of lace bite, whilst also preventing the tongue material to stretch at all. The retail version is very stretching and elasticated which allows the foot to move inside the boot a lot more. Above we can see just how much additional material there is on this tongue for Messi, and how far it actually wraps around the medial side of the foot. The fact that Adidas are happy to change their whole manufacturing process to create Leo's boots exactly how he wants shows the levels that these big brands will go to in order to keep their top stars happy, but also shows how unhappy with the regular retail version Messi is.
Among his contemporary peers, Messi is most often compared and contrasted with Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, as part of an ongoing rivalry that has been compared to past sports rivalries like the Muhammad Ali–Joe Frazier rivalry in boxing, the Roger Federer–Rafael Nadal rivalry in tennis, and the Senna–Prost rivalry from Formula One. Although Messi has at times denied any rivalry, they are widely believed to push one another in their aim to be the best player in the world. Since 2008, Messi has won seven Ballons d'Or to Ronaldo's five, six FIFA World's Best Player awards to Ronaldo's five, and six European Golden Shoes to Ronaldo's four. Pundits and fans regularly argue the individual merits of both players. Beyond their playing styles, the debate also revolves around their differing physiques – Ronaldo is 1.87 m (6 ft 1+1⁄2 in) with a muscular build – and contrasting public personalities with Ronaldo's self-confidence and theatrics a foil to Messi's humility. From 2009–10 to 2017–18, Messi faced Ronaldo at least twice every season in El Clásico, which ranks among the world's most viewed annual sports events. After Messi led Argentina to victory in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, a number of football critics, commentators, and players have stated that Messi has settled the debate between the two players.
Here in the side by side comparison of the medial side profile of Messi's actual version, vs the retail equivalent, we can notice some key differences. As we have discussed with the burrito tongue topic, the need for the custom knit in the manufacturing process was mentioned, and here we can see just how different it looks. Looking closely at the top of the upper material as it follows on to where the lacing holes are, on the top boot we can see that the holes of the material which allow it to stretch continue as the material wraps around the top of the foot. However, with Messi's shoe on the bottom, these holes stop completely as the material gets to the 2nd - 3rd lace hole. If Adidas had taken a normal pair and simply cut them, the whole system would not work, the material would fray and all structure would be lost in that area. From this side profile view we can also spot the difference in upper shape, and just how much more padded Leo's heel is! But more on those points later down in this blog...
Messi's Speedframe outsole on his Adidas X Speedflow.1 El Retorno boots is again just like the upper, fully customised to him. Every single stud on this outsole is totally different to what you'd find on the retail version X Speedflow.1 outsole. Since the 2010 F50 Adizero, Leo has used a stud configuration known as the 'Gambatrax' which is essentially the front two and rear two studs being made conical, or rounded, instead of the standard shape. They're also shorter than the rest of the studs on the sole. It is suggested that this set up suits Messi's playing style perfectly, which certainly makes sense since he has used that set up for the past 13 years. Throughout those years, he has every so often changed the shape, angle and size of the rest of the studs on the plate as he moved from model to model. On the X Speedflow.1 seen here, he opted for triangular shaped studs as opposed to arrow & bladed shaped versions found on the retail version, all of the studs are also made from a softer plastic compound than those on the retail version, something also spotted on the Xavi match worn boots we reviewed here: https://bcboots.uk/blogs/news/xavis-match-worn-adidas-predator-instinct-special-custom-edition-football-boots.
Above we can see a side by side of Messi's custom Speedframe outsole compared with the retail equivalent. Besides the actual shape of the studs themselves, it is also worth noting both the width of the sole in both the forefoot & heel areas - noticeably wider. The distance between the studs is also changed on Messi's set up, with the front two studs being placed further back from the front of the plate, whilst the four studs in the heel area are as far back as possible. The gap between the three studs across the centre of the forefoot area is also increased, with the outer studs being set as wide as possible. Another cool detail: Messi's custom logo has even been embossed on the central stud in the forefoot area, beautiful attention to detail!
From getting diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency as a boy to being a Copa America 2021 winner, Lionel Messi has defied all odds to become a living legend. His wizardry is not unknown. 16 years of waiting, 28 years of darkness, numerous scars of untouched glory, heartbreaks of lost finals, all forgotten, all unplugged, Lionel Messi led Argentina, at last, to the heights of international football. Little did we all know, just under a year and a half later, Leo would go on to do it all again by leading Argentina to glory at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The heel construction we see here on Messi's custom version of the X Speedflow.1 is completely different to what is available to the public, honestly if they were next to each other, no similarities would be seen! Typically this model came with two small pillow style pods inside the heel area, with the rest of the area being lined in a very thin synthetic material, leaving the somewhat sharp edges of the heel cup exposed, which could cause blistering. Messi must've looked at that and said to Adidas "get rid of the entire design!" because his pair, as seen above, have a much more luxurious heel! The interior has a huge amount of extra padding, wrapping right around the heel area during use, it even goes right up to the edge of the cup. The interior here is lined in a very soft fabric material, which covers over the top of the heel cup, providing ultimate comfort for Leo.
Moving on to the exterior of the heel areas, and again even more differences to be noted here. Just take a look at the width and height of Leo's version compared to the retail version on the top and take in how different those measurements are! The width is humungous on his custom pair, and this is partly down to just how padded that area of the boots are - of course the retail one, has minimal padding there. We can also see how Messi's right boot is slightly higher than the left, displaying how specific the boots have been made to cater to his requirements. If we look at the retail pair on the top, we can notice the difference in colour of the material around the edge of the heel tab, which is due to that being hardened over the rest of the fabric there. Messi's version however, doesn't have that, due to the extra heel padding. But hey, at least the boots share the same 'Messi 10' logo at the heels, there's one similarity at least!
The insoles inside Messi's pair are also custom, however not quite as bespoke as the boots themselves. Adidas have essentially taken a pair of the retail version insoles, but modified them by adding extra padding making them a little thicker than normal, and they have applied a soft black suede liner on top, providing just that extra bit of comfort for Leo. Take a look at the back of the insoles, notice how they're all creased up? That is due to the sheer amount of extra padding inside the heel area of the boots - that just goes to show how thick it is!
Let us know what you think of this museum level piece of match worn memorabilia from the GOAT in the comments section below!