The stunning Nike Merlin Hi-Vis match ball was released last week, representing the final ball to be used in English Premier League play in the 2010s. We take a look back at the best Premier League match balls we’ve seen this decade, from the eye-watering to the downright beautiful.
Paying tribute to the Total 90 Aerow, the first-ever high visibility match ball used in the English Premier League, the new Nike Hi-Vis Merlin is the latest delve into nostalgia the Swoosh has given us this year. The striking blue and yellow design is sure to stand out through snow, sleet, and whatever unpredictable weather England is set to see this winter.
While Nike might go more under the radar for official match balls in comparison to rivals adidas, they have still managed to be the official ball supplier to the English top flight since the 2000-01 season.
We take a look back at the best match balls the Premier League has used this decade, filtering through the great to the what on earth were they thinking?!
11. Ordem 4 (2016-17)
Despite being revolutionary for its proprioceptive grip texture which professional footballers have become accustomed to, the radical colorway lets this one down big time. Nike may have pushed the boat out too far here.
10. Merlin (2019-20)
This season’s current ball hasn’t impressed with many fans at all. The amount of pink is probably the eyebrow-raising feature. The aforementioned winter version though is a huge, huge improvement, but cannot save it from ranking this low in comparison to others.
9. Total 90 Ascente (2009-10)
The Total 90 Ascente has unique visual design tailored towards encouraging to strike cleanly through the middle of the ball in dead ball situations (which seemed to be a theme of T90 where precision meets power). Unfortunately the all-over pattern on the ball rather lets it down. It could have been a different story if they had kept it clean just like its other predecessors in the Total 90 range.
8. Seitiro (2011-12)
While they upped the luminance and opted for a different visual pattern on the ball, the Seitiro just didn’t really have a lot going for it and was quickly forgotten for being one of the more plain and “meh” designs of the decade.
7. Incyte (2013-14)
This was the period where Nike was still clearly tweaking with the visuals and graphics on the balls. Like this year’s Merlin, the Incyte was probably better in the high-vis yellow winter colorway. However, the purple is a nice touch, the contrast on the white worked well, and it also maintained the cross-linked foam and vulcanized rubber so it wasn’t a complete brick.
6. Ordem V (2017-18)
Eventually Nike resorted to a less outlandish design for the final ball in the Ordem line. Sticking with the 12-panel design, this one had the best bladder yet of the Ordem range and the colorway for winter wasn’t bad either. The Ordem V has more or less set the tone for what to expect with any modern Nike match ball in terms of performance.
5. Nike Merlin (2018-19)
A remake on a classic that implements a lot of new technology was bound to score well. This ball features the All Conditions Control tech that’s also used on Nike boots, and uses different materials and higher frequency welding techniques that make the durability of the ball more structurally robust. Oh and the little bit of green is nice change in color too.
4. Ordem 2 (2014-15)
This is where Nike really started experimenting. This ball made major leaps and bounds in the tech department, and supposedly optimized the aerodynamic flight of the ball with the internationally patented “AerowTrac Grooves.” This one was very nice to strike from personal experience.
3. Ordem 3 (2015-16)
One of those rare occasions where an ambitious switch up on a modern ball actually doesn’t look too bad. As strange as it was seeing a Prem ball where the base color wasn’t white, this one was still visually appealing and will probably live long in the memories of Leicester City fans. The crimson red and the black segmented ‘webbed’ look helped the ball to stand out at all times. (It made it a lot easier to find this one when kicked into a hedge too.)
2. Maxim (2012-13)
Probably one of the more forgotten ones. The Maxim seems to use the colors that one would perhaps most associate with the Premier League’s fractured glass design which was visually striking and looked great in the winter version. A remake of the Maxim with more up-to-date technology specs would be class!
1. Total 90 Tracer (2010-11)
The final ball in the Total 90 series was a gem. Its acute visual block design certainly kept the Total 90 feel to it, even in its unorthodox lime green/yellow-looking winter colorway. This ball was the standout from the archives with a semi-classic look while incorporating new technology that Nike wanted to implement including arch panels that enabled even distribution of pressure across the entire ball. All hail the Tracer!