A sure sign that a player has risen to the level of superstar is when they are added to soccer’s gold standard. The game’s gold standard is achieved when a player trots out on the field wearing a special gold cleat, frequently a one-of-a-kind or limited edition one.
Neymar was the latest to be added to the gold standard although admittedly the Nike Hypervenom Phantom FG in Metallic Gold Coin/Black/True Yellow that the 22-year-old unveiled at the World Cup was more about promoting the new colorway than reserved especially for the Brazilian. But it must be added that the inspiration for the color came from the habit of a young Neymar to hand paint his cleats gold and the midfielder has posted some great numbers with 42 goals in 60 appearances for the Selecao.
The true gold standard, however, is reserved for those special players who have in one way or another changed the game. These are a few players who have pulled on special gold cleats.
Lionel Messi – The Argentine is arguably the best player in the history of the game. The critics point to him not hoisting a World Cup title but a look at what he has done with Barcelona is incredible. Earlier this year Messi set the all-time record for goals in both La Liga and the UEFA Champions League but his gold cleats have been reserved for his winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or as Europe’s top player.
After winning a 3rd consecutive award, Messi was handed a custom pair of his adidas adiZero cleats. He took them to the field for the La Liga match between against Real Betis on January 15, 2012.
He gave them a good workout and even scored a goal from the penalty spot.
A year later after winning a 4th Ballon d’Or, a custom cleat was again part of the celebration. The cleat was black but was designed to allow the gold sunburst with each of his winning years stand out along with other detailing on the cleat.
But the first time Messi was honored with a gold pair of cleats was back in 2010. The midfielder/forward started the La Liga campaign wearing the Metallic Gold Lionel Messi adidas F50 adiZero.
David Beckham – Arguably the master of marketing, David Beckham has done his part to set the gold standard. The England international sported 2 different gold looks as he finished up his career in Major League Soccer with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Zinedine Zidane – The FIFA World Cup was the inspiration and then the stage for Zinedine Zidane’s showcasing of his gold adidas cleats. After leading France to the 1998 World Cup title, Zidane wore a gold version of his adidas Predator Accelerator.
He pulled on a signature gold Absolute colorway during the 2006 World Cup. Maybe he should have waited until after the tournament to pull on the custom cleats as he was infamously red card in the final loss to Italy.
Francesco Totti – Diadora is happy to help set the gold standard. The Italian company presented one of Italy’s best, Francesco Totti, with a special pair of gold cleats that he wore during the UEFA Champions League group D match between Roma and Olympiakos.
Ronaldinho – In his prime, Ronaldindo was a master and was instrumental in setting the gold standard. The Brazilian international, who helped El Selecao to the 2002 World Cup title, pulled on his own pair of gold cleats on a number of occasions. Nike designed a special gold cleat for Ronaldinho to wear in 2005. The cleat featured 24-carat gold applied to the Nike swoosh.
After helping Barcelona win the UEFA Champions League, Ronaldinho pulled on a pair of predominantly gold cleats.
A few years later he pulled on a new updated look of his gold cleat, the Nike Ronaldinho 10R Dois. The cleat no longer featured a tongue flap and the quilted upper was in place to improve the touch.
A great list of players who have been used to set the gold standard. Who are the players we are missing?