Creative Soccer Culture

Is Neymar The Missing Piece In PUMA's Puzzle?

If recent reports are to be believed, it appears that Neymar is set to sever his long-standing ties with Nike, with a sensational switch to PUMA mooted to be on the cards. So what could this move mean for all parties concerned?

The two best players of this generation and arguably of all time sit on either side of an eternal divide. Cristiano Ronaldo, the former Real Madrid icon, will forever be associated with Nike, having signed a lifetime deal with the Swoosh. And on the other side, the ying to Ronaldo’s yang, is one Lionel Messi, Barcelona legend, and – barring some early appearances in Nike boots – an adidas man, through and through. The pair represent the epitome of the rivalry between Nike and adidas. So what happens when you add a third dimension to that equation? The balance becomes tipped. In short, there’s not enough room for a third, as Neymar found out when he made the decision to leave Barcelona to forge his own identity away from the shadow of Messi.

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And now it appears as though a similar story is unfolding on the brand front as well. Nike and adidas have long been the two powerhouse brands of the footballing world, battling for supremacy over the last two and a half decades. But prior to that there was a similar battle ongoing. Adolf and Rudolf Dassler were brothers who fell out during the second world war. Prior to those events, Adi, the younger brother, had started up a shoe factory. After the war, with the relationship between the two seemingly broken beyond repair, the brothers split – Adi founding adidas (adi-dassler), and Rudolf forming PUMA. So began a feud that would continue on for decades, until Nike entered the game in the 90s.

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Since then, PUMA has remained on the scene, but the Big Cat has largely been on the undercard to the main battle between the Three Stripes and the Swoosh. However, a marked shift over the last few years has seen PUMA move into a position that is threatening the dominance of the big two. A big drive has welcomed a raft of new recruits, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez becoming the faces of the brand, while the switch from the evoSPEED and evoPOWER lines to the Future, ONE and now Ultra have always kept them relevant and in a position to compete. Add to that the deals with the likes of Manchester City and the City Football Group for a sum of €700 million ($833m), and La Liga, with the Spanish league’s ball emblazoned with the brand’s logo, and PUMA are sat in the slip stream of Nike and adidas, ready to make their move. It just feels as though one thing is missing…


While you can’t argue with the ability of the likes of Griezmann, Aguero and Suarez, none carry the global appeal of a Messi or a Ronaldo (who does?), while they are also either on the wrong side of 30, or knocking on its door; PUMA's A-list roster needs a refresh. But more than that the brand are missing a face, a main man that represents them, and they know it.

They were linked with a big money move for Raheem Sterling – seemingly a perfect fit for the brand's needs – though that move seems to have gone cold over recent months, with the England attacker opting to wear his own choice of Nike boots in recent games, clearly not committing to a boot contract at present. Romelu Lukaku, a statement signing for the brand only two years ago, now looks like he may be making the move to adidas. PUMA need a new statement signing. Someone that will help propel the brand back onto the global radar, positioning them alongside Nike and adidas. Step forward Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior.

Neymar has enjoyed a long and lucrative partnership with Nike, having been with the brand for 15 years, since he was a 13 year-old prodigy playing in the youth ranks of Brazilian club Santos. But all that appears to be coming to an end, with the exact reason behind the premature termination of the contract not being revealed. Neymar’s current deal with Nike was signed in 2011 and was due to end in 2022, but it appears that a possible short-fall in the 40 million euros (£35.6 million) per season that he is currently being paid was part of the reason for the breakdown in negotiations. Whatever the reason, it places one of the biggest stars of the game behind Messi and Ronaldo firmly in the “available” category.

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The partnership between Neymar and Nike is one of the biggest and longest in the game. There was a level of personality in it that you seldom see – Neymar clearly loves Nike, having grown up with them, and the Swoosh were only too happy to return the compliments, supplying him with countless signature boots, as well as his own line of signature sneakers. But while he has been touted as the successor to the Nike throne for so long, CR7’s longevity and stubborn reluctance to stop being so good have delayed that to the point where a new pretender to the crown has emerged in the form of Neymar’s PSG teammate, Kylian Mbappe. And as has already been evidenced, Neymar doesn’t do sharing too well.

His desire to be the alpha male and have a company that revolves around him, giving him more influence in creating and marketing products, could well be a driving force in his switch. That and, y’know, all the money. And for PUMA, it would be a mark of intent; like with a football team, that one marquee signing can be the catalyst that leads to other players joining. They just have to market it right.

Away from the direct link with football, PUMA have enjoyed stretching their influence into other categories such as music and fashion, with partnerships with the likes of Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Cara Delevingne extending their reach and expanding their scope. And then of course there's perhaps one of the most high-profile friendships in global sport with Lewis Hamilton, who of course is a PUMA ambassador. The thoughts of a collaboration somewhere in there is a tempting proposition, and you know the Formula 1 champ will have a whisper in the Brazilian's ear about the brand. Neymar's interests away from the pitch certainly fall within all of these categories, and while he may miss the power and legacy of House Swoosh, there's certainly a playground that the Brazilian would be more than happy to flex his creativity outside of football in with PUMA.

So if Neymar x PUMA does come to pass, it appears to be a partnership that will benefit both parties. But what of Nike? The loss of Neymar will undoubtedly be a huge blow. But Neymar is not a young man anymore. At 28, he is in his prime, but that will only last another few years. And as we have already mentioned, they have Mbappe primed and ready, and add to that the likes of Jadon Sancho, who seems to be taking up a prominent role in proceedings, and it appears that they may already have their contingency plan in place. Besides, it would take more than the departure of one man to derail their influence, but it appears PUMA may well be ready to muscle in on the Nike x adidas show in a big way.

Still waiting for anything official from PUMA or Neymar, with the reported 1 September announcement date having now passed...

Daniel Jones

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