Has there ever been a more poignant time for nostalgia in soccer? Retro kits have become collectible, sought after pieces of fashion and brands are dipping back into their archives to resurrect classic ware. Just have a look at Man United’s 90’s inspired 2017/18 away kits and more importantly, the recent re-release of the adidas Predator mania. It is with all that warm/fuzzy nostalgia that we take a look back on one of the most iconic and game-changing soccer boots ever, the adidas Predator. We aren’t just taking a look back, we’re ranking them. This is obviously for fun as this list is based on opinions which vary from person to person. But we also looked at aesthetics, tech, feel, and iconic moments like Beckham’s free-kick versus Greece or Zizou’s World Cup winning performance. With out further convoluted explanation here is our ranking of the adidas’ Predator boots.
1. adidas Predator Accelerator
Worn by: Zidane/World Cup 98 Final
Choosing the Accelerator for the top spot wasn’t as tough as you’d think. They looked like boots from another planet and sleek all at once. The rubber fins on the upper were tapered down from previous models which adeed to that more refined look. The revolutionary sole-plate, fold-over tongue and dominance of k-leather made the Accelerator second to none at the time. Though they looked a tad bulky, the cleats fit incredibly snug thanks to an offset lacing system and solid heel-counter. The fact that Zidane wore these in that World Cup 98 final only adds to the legendary status of the boots.
2. adidas Pedator Mania
Worn by: David Beckham/World Cup Qualifier vs Greece
There is a reason adidas brought these pearls back from the death. It’s crazy to think that a boot from 15 years ago could hold up to today’s standards, but the Mania’s absolutely do. In some cases, they actually surpass some modern football boots. Arguably the most streamlined of all the Predator models, they were tight, narrow and gorgeous. The trademark rubber fins were further shaved down and restricted to the strike zone for grip when curving the ball. The fold over tongue was given an elastic band to hold it in place, a reinforced heel-counter added stability and the Traxion soleplate allowed players to modify their studs for pitch conditions. For the countless superstars that rocked these, the Mania’s will forever be remembered as the boots that Becks wore when he scored that fabled free kick versus Greece to send England to the 2002 World Cup.
3. adidas Predator Touch
Worn by: John Harkes/MLS opening day
This was when the Predator really started to gain traction as a proper boot. Aesthetically, they fulfilled their namesake as they looked more menacing than any other iteration in the range to date. Aside from the look, the Touch was where adidas added tried-and-true materials to a modern concept. Classic k-leather was segmented and built around pronounced rubber teeth which solely graced the upper surrounding the laces and toe-box. An enlarged fold-over tongue increased the strike-zone and a reinforced sole-plate added to the complete step up in quality. John Harkes made these fresh when he rocked them for D.C. United in the very first MLS match ever.
4. adidas Predator Precision
Worn By: Patrick Kluivert /Euro 2000 hat-trick vs Serbia
Smooth, stealthy and sleek, adidas clearly wanted to refine the Predator with the Precision model. The patented rubber fins were dramatically reduced while velcro was added to the fold-over tongue for less distraction with a streamlined strike-zone. Once again, k-leather engulfed the boots upper for unrivaled feel. The Precision also marked the introduction of the revolutionary stud configuration and sole-plate. Called the Traxion system, it gave players the option to swap studs for adaptability to ever changing pitch conditions. Detractors argued that the Precision was overly clunky, even more so than it’s predecessor. To that we say, go on youtube and type in Patrick Kluivert hat-trick vs Serbia 2000 Euro. Go on, we’ll wait.
5. adidas Predator Instinct
Worn by: Angel Di Maria/ 2014 Champions League Final
The last of a dying breed. By 2014 the Predator was entirely a different boot. Aside from its name and brand, the Instinct shared zero with the OG 94 Predator. Visually nearly every colorway created for the iteration was brash or hideous, sometimes both. What made the Instinct so beloved was its tech and on-pitch performance. Players absolutely loved them and for good reason. The upper implemented several synthetic materials including SL rubber plus a welded Gel pad, which reinforced the various zones and reasons in which a player touched the ball. The shockingly lightweight boots also received a versatile sole-plate via the control frame which offered grip in all weather conditions. Angel DiMaria famously rocked the Instinct when he destroyed Atletico Madrid in the 2014 UCL Final giving Real their elusive 10th Champions League title.
6. adidas Predator
Worn by: Ronald Koeman/World Cup 94
The ones that started it all. The original adidas Predator was an absolute game-changer, plain and simple. It looked like something an actual reptilian Predator of some sort would wear. At a glance, the boots seemed all flash and little substance, but a deeper dive into the concept uncovered some revolutionary tech that would influence soccer boots to this day. For the first time, we saw those iconic rubber fins which looked more like scales. Their purpose was to add more control via grip when curving a shot or pass. Going against the trend at the time, the small rubber tongue did not fold over and the timeless three-stripes were tweaked to fit the overall vibe of the boot. The mighty Ronald Koeman wore these at the 94 World Cup in the good ol’ US of A.
7. adidas Predator Rapier
Worn by: Paul Gascoigne
Picking up where the OG left off, the Rapier looked very similar to its predecessor but featured a slightly lighter, more stripped down upper. The rubber fins were now super conspicuous as they now covered the entirety of the strike-zone. Soft leather was employed on the majority of the boot including the fold over tongue, which was now in place to cover laces and offer a more integrated upper that players of the day were accustomed to. Still in its infancy, the Rapier was given minor tweaks, but the best was still yet to come for the Predator. One of Englands best, Paul Gascoigne rocked modified versions of the Rapier in his days at Rangers.
8. adidas Predator Powerserve
Worn by: Dimitar Berbatov/ birth of the Berba spin 2008 vs West Ham
After the relative flop of the Absolute, adidas decided to refocus on what made the Predator unique. While they didn’t bring back the rubber fins, they did revisit the sweet spot by adding SmartFoam. The dense new material added more responsiveness when kicking the ball while the enlarged fold-over tongue completely covered the laces which further expanded the striking surface. The Power Pulse tech seen in its predecessors was back again with interchangeable insoles and adidas’ ever-enduring Traxion system gave the Powerswerve a solid foundation. The Powerswerve was really a return to form for the Predator. Several elite soccer players wore these including the silky Dimitar Berbatov when he invented the “Berba Spin” on a cold Manchester night in 2008.
9. adidas Pedator adiPOWER
Worn by: Xavi/ 2011 Champions League Final
The adiPower were a bit of a paradox for Predator purists. As with other iterations previously mentioned on this list, by 2011 all semblance of any predator DNA was gone. No red, no black, no fins, and certainly no fold-over tongue. What remained was an entirely new boot, a damn good one but not really a predator. The adiPower feature pioneering tech courtesy of segmented strike-zones. These sweet spots were comprised of 3D rubber and silicon. The synthetic supper was surprisingly soft and the new sprint frame made for an equally surprising lightweight boot. Again, a great boot just null of any Predator magic. Players adored the adiPowers, watch Xavi put them through the paces in his masterclass vs Man United in the 2011 Champions League Final.
10. adidas Predator Absolute
Worn by: Kaka/2007 Champions League semi-final vs Manchester United
This was an obvious transitional period for the Predator. Attempting to evolve adidas’ Power Pulse technology, the Absolute offered options via interchangeable sock liners for varying degrees of response. The upper for the second time incorporated more in-fashion synthetic materials with less k-leather and zero rubber fins. The elastic strap on the fold-over tongue was back making the boots aesthetically more Predator but overall the DNA that made the boots timeless was gone. Arguably the ugliest of the family, the Absolute was still on the feet of the world’s best at the time. Case in point, Kaka in his prime, dominating for Milan when he single-handedly shredded Man United’s defense to bits en route to a Champions League semi-final victory. Just like most of the moments highlighted on the list, we beg you to youtube this.
11. adidas Predator Pulse
Worn by: Fernando Morientes/ 2004 Champions League semi-final vs Chelsea
Visually very similar to the Mania, the Pulse was considered by many, the first relative flop in the Predator’s illustrious lineage. The Pulse was the beginning of an awkward phase for the line. Gone were the rubber fins, in were a partial synthetic upper, Velcro tongue and the introduction of Power Pulse technology which added weights at various points within an interchangeable insole. The idea behind this was naturally to increase striking power. Fernando Morientes tormented many a defense in Pulse back in 04. Most notably scoring to knock Chelsea out in the 2004 Champions League semi-final.
12. adidas Predator LZ
Worn by: Steven Gerard/ Euro 2012
Aside from a few, you’re going to notice a trend. Most of the more modern Predators are at the bottom of our list. Not because they’re bad boots necessarily, but because they’re vastly different from the originals. We understand things must evolve but sometimes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But moving along the Predator LZ were a complete rework. For the first time, an all synthetic leather was employed and featured unique segmented ‘Lethal Zones’ thus the moniker. The LZ’s were also versatile as they were lightweight yet durable and maintained elements to aid in ball control plus striking. When we think of midfield general who can drop 50-yard dimes and smash 30-yard screamers, we think of England’s own Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool legend rocked the LZ’s for England in Euro 2012.
13. adidas Predator LZ TRX
Worn by: Thomas Muller/ 2013 Champions League Final
By now you should understand how we feel about newer predators so no need to beat a dead horse. So let’s talk about what the Predator LZ TRX encompassed. First, it was a built-for-speed/control hybrid boot. The metallic neon green was something you’d see typically reserved for ultra light silos, but the LZ TRX had a more stout arsenal. Going off of the ‘five Lethal Zones’ from its sister model, the TRX added a sprint frame, a super soft synthetic HybridTouch upper and anti-slip heel counter for maximum stability. A hybrid boot for a hybrid player like Thomas Muller, who wore these babies in the 2013 Champions League Final when Bayern ousted a game Dortmund side.
14. adidas Predator X
Worn by: Raul/Shalke training
We’ve come to the end of the road and we’ve saved the worst for last. This basically marked the beginning of the end for our beloved Predator silo. While it was supposed to be a nod to the first, nearly every identifiable trait that made the Predators so iconic was now gone. Sure the relative shape and lack of tongue were similar to the OG 94, but that was pretty much it. Unlike the other more modern iterations, the X was universally dissed. Built of “Taurus” leather and a silicon/rubber hybrid, the upper was incredibly stiff. The new power spine which reinforced the heel counter also added more weight. Yes, plenty of legends rocked these including Spanish legend Raul, but probably only because there were few other options at this point.