He’s widely regarded the greatest player in the world.
MirrorFootball recently caught up with Senior Designer at adidas football, Mark Illan, and Senior Product Manager, Philipp Hagel, to learn how the company ensures the Argentine always has the best tools for his trade.
The duo explained their working relationship with Messi, from dreaming up a conceptual boot idea to creating and testing it, and revealed exactly what went into their brand new franchise, adidas Nemeziz.
They also discussed the inspiration behind the radical boot design, which has been influenced by other agility sports including boxing and ballet – where athletes use tape for support.
And even revealed that Messi’s boots are made using a special material selected by the man himself. No wonder he is so good.
“We have been working with Messi for a long time and after all these years we have developed a boot that defines his playing style, and he is very happy with it,” explains Mark.
“We call it the Messi footprint,” Philipp interrupts proudly.
“What we did is not touch his configuration,” continues Mark.
“So he still plays with his own configuration, but we make minor changes here and there just to adapt to his foot.”
The pair have worked extensively with Messi during his illustrious career, and even own a mould of the Argentine’s foot.
But it’s not just the Barcelona forward the team have the benefit of working with on a regular basis.
Liverpool star Roberto Firmino is another player who is always keen to offer his opinion on a new pair of boots, particularly where style is involved.
“Players always want something fresh and new, Firmino [Julian] Draxler, [Renato] Sanches, they always want something fresh, new, outstanding,” explains Philipp.
“We show them the designs and concepts we can do and wait for their reactions. It has to perform on their feet and be visually appealing.
“Firmino is of course a very outgoing personality, very style driven, and he was all over the actual design of the boot and liked its disruptive look.
“He tested the boot [at Liverpool’s training ground] and when it felt fine, he could fully concentrate on the design.”
Ajax starlet Kasper Dolberg was also invited to the adidas HQ to trial the Nemeziz boots prior to their release.
He admitted some skepticism over the laceless option, but was won over after he too tested them in training.
“Every professional player is different,” says Philipp.
“Some will test it and approve it, some are very nitty-gritty, moving minor details on a limited spectrum, you have some commenting on design, you have some commenting on material.
“They are all different, so it’s important to get all the feedback from all players and test the boot from all angles.
“Dolberg was in our HQ and we showed him both the Nemeziz boot with laces and also the laceless version, our statement product.
“And this was a principle question, ‘Kasper can you actually imagine wearing a boot without laces?’
“He was quite surprised that we did this concept without laces and at that moment couldn’t really imagine the concept.
“But then he went to the lab at HQ and tested it and it was quite comfortable, so he took it to training.”
adidas is keen to ensure all its customers have access to some Messi magic and have released the Argentine’s bespoke boots along with the standard Nemeziz design.
“The material on his current boots that he wears and very much likes, we call it the agility knit,” explains Philipp.
“On the Nemeziz non-Messi versions we have the agility knit 2.0, both very soft and adaptable materials.
“We wanted to make Messi’s preference available to the consumer, so in the end Nemeziz and Nemeziz Messi are visually similarly looking shoes with different colouration.
“So if you want the Messi version, you can get it in the store.”