Victor Frankenstein wailed “it’s alive, it’s alive” upon the awakening of his sentient creature and the designers at adidas must have shared a similar feeling as the Predator was brought to life.
The savage football boot was unleashed onto the market in 1994 with the promise of aiding supernatural ability.
From freakish swerve on the ball to violent velocity, the Predator has long held a monstrous reputation, emerging as one of the most iconic silos of all time.
Worn by legendary players who created legendary moments in them, the Predator has woven itself into the very fabric of the game, becoming its own piece of football culture.
Each iteration of the boot has evolved, blowing away consumers and athletes with revolutionary engineering and design.
And with the launch of the Predator Mutator 20 – a boot featuring DEMONSKIN technology, a unique layer of spikes designed to give players enhanced touch and control of the ball – they have stunned the market once again.
With more than 25 years of history, it makes sense to chart the shapeshifting evolution of the Predator through the years…
We’ve all had those dreams, playing for club x, at ground x and stepping up to bend a glorious strike into the top corner. Well, the OG Predator could help bring one aspect of those dreams to reality. The signature rubber ridges were unique to Predator and adidas testing pointed to 23 per cent improved swerve on the ball compared to their traditional all-leather models. The black, white and red colourway was there from day one, a combination which would become the MO for the Predator silo.
– The first goal in a Predator boot was technically scored by Celtic’s John Collins through a sublime free-kick against Rangers. However, Manchester United’s Paul Ince had scored a week earlier in Predators, only with a header…
1995. Predator Rapier
There weren’t too many changes to the ’95 version with the aggressive rubber elements virtually identical to the originals. But one iconic addition was implemented – the fold-over tongue. This was a feature which would stick around until the ‘00s and is one of the bases for Predators’ success over the forthcoming decades.
– Paul Gascoigne featured prominently in the marketing campaigns for the early editions and the photo of him surrounded by a bundle of the Rapiers is a famous shot. It was also the first boot ever to be manufactured in multiple colourways.
1996. Predator Touch
Predator red really came to the fore in 1996 with the beastly tongue becoming a very prominent feature. Directional Traxion studs were installed for the first time, although they would become a little more famous later on. The strategy to tie versions of the Predator to major tournaments got a taste in 1996 ahead of the Euros.
– Two goals were scored in the Touch and both for contrasting reasons encapsulated Predator. First in terms of the control element, David Beckham scored his first-ever goal in Predators with a halfway line strike against Wimbledon. Funny story, the only boots available in his size 8 had Charlie embroidered onto the tongue as they had been manufactured for Rangers’ Charlie Miller. In terms of touch, there was Paul Gascoigne dinking the ball over Scotland’s Colin Hendry before smashing home at Euro 96.
1998. Predator Accelerator
A favourite among many Predator enthusiasts, the Accelerators provided a real jump in innovation. Asymmetric laces were introduced to allow for a wider strike zone on the top of the boot while the rubber fins were trimmed and restricted to the toe box. That’s the technical side of the boot, now just look at them. These are the real smooth criminals, from the wavy three stripes to the transparent red outer sole gracing the bottom lining.
– World Cup. France. Zidane. Predator. Now, granted Zidane scored his two World Cup final goals via his head, but the France superstar dominated the tournament wearing the Accelerators. This was his World Cup and these were his boots.
2000. Predator Precision
The Precision marked a big departure from the original Predator. The famed rubber fins had now morphed into thin sectioned lines while a velcro seal for the longer fold-over tongue added extra security and a cleaner strike zone. These are the boots which saw the Traxion tech really shine as the interchangeable studs meant players were prepared for all weather conditions. The stripes are the tour de force, though, the waves lengthening out to the back of the boot make for a sleek aesthetic.
– Nothing says Precision more than the iconic David Beckham free-kick against Greece to send England to the 2002 World Cup. The timing, the technique, the emotion, just everything about it is perfect. Except, of course, if you’re Greek.
2002. Predator Mania
Allegiances to other boots don’t matter when it comes to the Mania because there can be collective agreement that these deserve GOAT status. This was a boot which appealed to the senses. The luxurious kangaroo leather instantly hit the nostrils when unboxing, the snapping of the elasticated rubber band to lock the fold-over tongue to sole of the boot panged against the ear, the hard casing for the heel counter felt so stable and for the eyes they were beautiful. Drawing inspiration from East Asia ahead of the 2002 World Cup, the fins were gone and replaced by three rubber stripes on the toe box.
– Zinedine Zidane against Bayer Leverkusen, need we say anymore?
2004. The Predator Pulse
Evolution as opposed to revolution marked the Predator era though the ‘00s as synthetics and in the inner workings of the boot drew more focus. The PowerPulse System saw its birth in this silo, a sockliner which was engineered to shift the boot’s centre of gravity to increase raw power and momentum behind the ball.
– There’s a reason Zidane is synonymous with Predator and it’s because he habitually produced show-stopping moments in them. At Euro 2004 he dismantled England with two goals, infamously throwing up prior to taking a late penalty.
2006. Predator Absolute
The PowerPulse System became interchangeable with the Absolute as the melted rubber strips reclined from six to three. The infused liquid elements made for a sheen finish and reinforced boot’s structure but what we think of most is a specific colourway, the gold and white combo which celebrated Zidane’s career.
– A cramped-up Steven Gerrard was powered by the Absolute when he smashed one of his finest Liverpool goals to break West Ham hearts in the 2006 FA Cup final.
2007. Predator PowerSwerve
Bend, swerve, curl, use whatever verb is applicable but in 2007 Predator delivered. SmartFoam for shock absorption was introduced for the first time as the rubber elements were bounced. The microfibre upper was carefully designed to help boost power and swerve with tungsten powder used in the insole to help shift weight when striking the ball. Produced in 20 different colourways, this was a modern Predator with bite.
– Zidane was said to be heavily involved in the design process, working in the Predator lab alongside the adidas innovation team for long nights as Beckham and Gerrard were used in the initial testing of the boot.
2009. Predator X
The Predator identity changed immensely as the decade drew to a close. The fold-over tongue was gone for good with a new upper made of Taurus leather swapped in for the classic Kangaroo as minimising the contact area between foot and ball became the key cornerstone. PowerSpine technology was introduced to limit the foot bending backwards and the top of the instep housed a new SmartFoam zone as opposed to individual strips along the toe box.
– One of the worst World Cups in recent memory was in 2010, but La Furia Roja rose to otherworldly status at this tournament. X did mark the spot for Xavi as he guided Spain to their treasure trove in South Africa.
2011. Predator adiPower
PowerSpine, Taurus leather and no tongue, the adiPower was essentially its predecessor only better. The rubber 3D fins were much more pronounced to enhance grip and control. However, this boot was all about weight as it borrowed the super thin SprintFrame outsole from the f50s to become the lightest Predator ever at 230g.
– The SprintFrame outsole saw the adiPower weigh 25 per cent less than the X and considering the OG Predator weighed in at 391g, it aligned the brand with the modern market.
2012. Predator LZ
Predator by name, but Lethal by nature. The 2012 edition saw five rubber zones implemented across the upper, each to harness increased touch, control and power over different aspects of the game. The introduction of a synthetic leather called HybridTouch made for a modern and streamlined silo while adidas miCoach system was used for the first time – a technology ahead of its time.
– Lethal Zones were actually referred to as the D5 because as you guessed it, the five zones were deadly. The name was changed in the build-up to its release.
2014. Predator Instinct
Speed was the name of the game for modern consumers when the Instinct was released with the f50s success baring hallmarks on this boot. The HybridTouch synthetic upper made for another lightweight design and the Lethal Zone elements were largely the same, only much more aggressive to give the boot bountiful grip. Predator was 20 years old at this point but the journey would temporarily end here.
– According to Complex, players testing the Instinct were given white-out versions of the silo and markers to pinpoint crucial points of ball contact. Five zones emerged on the upper, one for power, dribbling, passing and trapping – a welded gel pack was created – plus one more zone for passing and touch.
2018. Predator 18+
Looking back at the journey of the Predator it’s easy to see its evolution at every step. When it returned with a bang after a three-year hiatus, adidas unveiled a boot which reflected the change in the market, building on the success of the immensely popular ACE series with the Predator 18+. Now, for nostalgic Predator fans, this was a far cry from the OG with its new laceless design, Primeknit sock-fit collar, ControlFrame outsole and ControlSkin grip elements. But this was a supremely good boot, offering the best tech available at the time, and it did actually retain some subtle Predator DNA through its colour scheme.
– Paul Pogba is the modern day Predator player and his mesmeric performances at the 2018 World Cup wearing the boot were topped off by him slamming home in the final against Croatia.
2020. Predator Mutator
If the Predator 18+ is Spiderman, then the Mutator is Venom. These animalistic boots are like an anti-hero, far from a clean-cut superhero but rather a beast we cannot help but love. The Mutators are full of attitude, all teeth chomping, feet enveloping and red raging. Adidas have been able to produce a silo which looks and feels like Predator but with the best tech innovations around. The Primeknit collar runs higher up the ankle and is even stretchier to provide a better lockdown. The two-plated stud configuration reduces weight and allows a 360 design where the upper design wraps underneath the foot. But the most striking aspect is the DEMONSKIN, a layer of 406 rubber teeth on the boot’s upper. And they make for absolutely absurd grip. “100% unfair” is the tagline, and that’s 100 per cent a fair tagline.
– The DEMONSKIN teeth were initially twice as long but in initial testing, players like Ivan Rakitic felt there was far too much grip and the teeth had to be retracted.
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