Error message

  • Notice: Undefined index: nid in views_handler_field_term_node_tid->pre_render() (line 98 of /var/www/html/docroot/sites/all/modules/views/modules/taxonomy/
  • Notice: Undefined index: nid in views_handler_field_term_node_tid->pre_render() (line 98 of /var/www/html/docroot/sites/all/modules/views/modules/taxonomy/


How Nike lost Messi to Adidas over a dumb oversight and a few hundred dollars worth of tracksuits

Nike lost Messi in 2006 in an effort to save themselves a couple hundred bucks. Along with him, they ended up losing billions in potential revenue. This is the story of how one of the most iconic partnerships in sports between Lionel Messi and Adidas came to be – and how close we were to seeing both Messi and Ronaldo as ambassadors for Nike.

Lionel Messi is arguably the most famous footballer in the world and one of the most famous celebrities on the planet. Throughout his distinguished 20-year career, the Argentine has become synonymous with a number of things: his native Argentina, his boyhood club FC Barcelona, and, of course, the iconic three stripes of Adidas.

Embed from Getty Images

Messi became an Adidas athlete in 2006 and since then, he has become the most marketable, profitable, and succesful athlete under the brand — pushing Adidas to offer the player a lifetime contract worth over $1 billion. Messi is Adidas and Adidas is Messi.

Embed from Getty Images

But, what if we told you Messi once played, scored goals, and mesmerized fans all over the world while wearing a different brand? It turns out at the start of his career Messi was a Nike athlete and, had the team at Nike not made a boneheaded decision to snub the family, he might have worn the swoosh instead of the three stripes to this very day.

Lionel Messi wore Nike in the beggining of his career

When Lionel Messi made his professional debut for FC Barcelona in 2004, the shaggy-haired number 30 came off the bench against Espanyol to replace club legend, Deco, in what was the start to one of the greatest sporting careers of all time.

The cleats worn by the La Masia product? A pair of silver Nike Mercurial Vapors, the same cleats worn by Cristiano Ronaldo at the time.

Yes, you read that correctly. At one point in time, Nike had both Messi and Ronaldo as athletes and wearing their shoes.

Embed from Getty Images

So, how did Nike ever let one of the most promising players in the world go to its archrival Adidas?

According to the people involved in the deal, it all started “…over a couple hundred bucks of tracksuits.”

How Nike lost Messi to Adidas over $300 worth of tracksuits

Messi was a Nike athlete during the chapter of the South American’s career that saw the young boy from Rosario rise through the youth ranks in Catalonia and make his way onto the first team at just 18 years old. He was the clear heir to the throne at Camp Nou.

After exhibiting his potential in Europe, Messi would soon catch the eye of brands wanting to sponsor the teenager, throwing dollars at him in order to wear and represent their companies.

In preparations for the 2006 World Cup, Nike was said to have held a photoshoot that saw Messi as one of the main faces of the campaign. But just months before the start of the tournament, sources inside the campaign at the time claim they received a call telling them to get rid of the pictures.

Nike was told unceremoniously that Messi had made the decision to sign with Adidas, despite having been supplied with Nike boots and gear since he was 14. Why?

Well, for one, in 2005 Adidas made a whopping £748,000 ($1 million) per year offer to steal the La Masia product from Nike. It wasn't this alone, however, as Nike's offer wasn't far behind the $1 million per year from Adidas.

It turns out it was a simple neglect from Nike towards the Messi family that is thought to have soured the Messi clan on any deal with Nike – specifically, a "trivial issue" that involved the brand’s failure to respond to messages from his father, Jorge Messi.

Embed from Getty Images

According to the book Messi vs. Ronaldo: One Rivalry, Two GOATs, and the Era That Remade the World’s Game, by Jonathan Clegg and Joshua Robinson, one of the reasons  Messi left Nike was because the brand failed to answer his father’s request to supply the Messi camp with a few sets of gear, a request that amounted to no more than a few hundred dollars (and probably less when you factor in the actual cost of the gear to Nike). When the family made the request, Nike Spain and Nike Latin America never responded to Jorge, reportedly causing great upset amongst the Messi-Cucciniti ménage.

Embed from Getty Images

Yes, Nike apparently lost Messi over a back-to-school shopping trip's worth of shoes and jackets.

This snub by Nike began the "fall-out" between the two parties and helped along the negotiations between the Messi camp and Adidas to bring the Albiceleste international to the three stripes in February of 2006.

After becoming aware of the Messi-Adidas agreement, Nike tried to halt the deal and stop the teenager from signing with the brand over what they called “a breach of contract.” Nike even took Messi to court.

Embed from Getty Images

To Nike's surprise, Messi was found not to have broken any agreement, mainly because there was none. The document that was shown in court that Messi had signed with Nike during the first years of his career was a “commitment letter” from the Argentine to wear their shoe — a commitment letter that had no leverage for Nike in court. 

In effect, the Spanish court ruled in Messi’s favor and the future Barça No.10 was able to begin his legendary journey with the German brand.

Embed from Getty Images

18 years later, Lionel Messi is the most successful soccer player in the history of the game, winner of the most Ballon d’Ors, European golden boots, the top goalscorer of the Argentina National Team, FC Barcelona and soon to be Inter Miami, a World Cup winner, and the only Adidas athlete to have a lifetime deal with the brand — resulting in perhaps the largest endorsement of all time.

Embed from Getty Images

Videos you might like