The Moment CR7 Knew Juve Was Next

England and Croatia both just had the world stop for over 90 minutes as they duked it out for a place in the World Cup 2018 Finals. Before that, Belgium and France, the third and seventh-ranked teams in the world, squared off in an equally intense semi-final to quite possibly the most exciting World Cup to date. Yet, headlining the world tabloids still was not that Samuel Umtiti header or the World Cup at all, but rather, again on Cristiano Ronaldo. The star Portuguese forward who just won his third consecutive Champions League final with Real Madrid, has personally opted to be traded to an unlikely spot… the Italian champions Juventus.

What may come as a surprise to many, is, in fact, a divorce that has been years in the making. Ronaldo’s decision to leave the club he dreamt of as a child quite simply comes down to his treatment by the man who brought that dream to life: Real Madrid President Florentino Perez. To start, Perez has a reputation for ruthlessly instating his Galacticos policy of bringing world-class talent in every summer transfer period. Amongst the elite footballers, we’ve seen the likes of Luís Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo Lima to Luka Modrić, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo; all of which brought the spotlight and silverware back to the Santiago Bernabéu. However, in doing so, Perez notably has gained a reputation of avoiding defensive-minded talent, budding into in-game managerial decisions and focusing the club’s interests more on its marketing rather than the longevity of its playing success.

In comes Ronaldo, a player who in his nine-year tenure at the club has won fifteen trophies — which include two Copa Del Rey’s, two La Liga titles along with four Champions League titles and four Ballon D’or’s to cement his place at the top of the totem pole. Despite these unbelievable achievements, Ronaldo has felt unappreciated by Los Blancos, apparent in his contract quarrels with Perez and the lack of support he received from the club following his five-match suspension back in the 2017-2018 season.

Perhaps Perez is a genius in allowing Ronaldo, who turns 34 in February, to walk and in doing so receive a healthy return ($100 million and free up $55 million in wages). However, logic leads us to believe otherwise, for the question mark still surround Madrid who many believe isn’t managed properly, and is entirely attack-minded and won much of its Champions League and La Liga success on the heels of Ronaldo’s 450 goals and 138 assists.

So why Juve? Why not Paris-Saint Germain or rather his other home, Old Trafford? I believe the Portuguese international made that decision back in April, upon getting up from one of the greatest bicycle kicks to date against the very club he’s decided to join. Instead of boos and jeers from a group of supporters who’ve seen Real Madrid end their Champions League dreams twice in the past three season, Ronaldo was shocked to witness a round of applause by the Bianconeri faithful. It’s in that moment that he felt the appreciation he’s longed for in the Spanish capital and is what has led him to add black stripes to the iconic white kit he has donned over the years.

Time will be the ultimate decider on whether Perez is indeed a genius by instead reeling in a Harry Kane, Eden Hazard, or Neymar. Or rather, perhaps it’s Ronaldo that takes a page out of Tom Brady’s book and fights back father time by proving he is the G.O.A.T., and in doing so bring Juventus its first Champions League title since 1996.

ANIMAL PRINT STEPS OUT OF THE JUNGLE AND ON TO THE PITCH

For anyone that calls themselves a sneakerhead… in fact, most that are even remotely into sneaker culture will have seen at the very least one footwear iteration that boasts Nike‘s synonymous animal-inspired patterns & prints, be it from an Animal Pack or a Safari drop. The soccer realm, however, has finally received its long awaited follow up, Mercurial CR7 Safari being the first, into the animal kingdom – despite the amount of flash out on the market – thanks to renown fashion designer and director Kim Jones‘ efforts with Nike’s Mercurial Superfly 360. Cast in a blazing “Total Orange,” the boots’ upper brought on an all-over display of Cheetah-print, which in our opinion puts this design miles ahead of the game.

Now, you may be wondering why the ex-men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton and the now current artistic director at Dior Homme is adopting the pattern of a cheetah onto not just a shoe, but a soccer boot at that. The reason behind the design is refreshingly straightforward. “I grew up in Africa and have always admired the strength of animals. The cheetah is the fastest land animal, so it makes complete sense as an inspiration for me,” the designer tells Nike News. Jones is not the only one who within the past month has decided to put their creative touch on a soccer boot.

We of course have Virgil Abloh – who coincidentally took over Jones’ role at LV if for some strange reason you haven’t heard that news already – and his Off-White take on yet another Nike Mercurial: the Vapor 360s. However, his design has the people divided, with one side approving of the Off-White stamp, and the other questioning the authenticity of his involvement in the game. In Kim Jones’ case, there’s no statement given by the man that makes it sound like he’s a soccer head, but rather a nonchalant (and perhaps more believable) mention that he likes the sport. The focus of his shoe then lies on the purpose of the design and its aforementioned link back to Jones’ upbringing in Kenya and Botswana.

For us at Kicks to the Pitch, the Nike Mercurial Superfly 360 x Kim Jones boot falls exactly into our niche category of lifestyle and soccer, given the brand heritage of animal print, and how the Mercurials also followed the release of Nike’s Air Max 1 collaboration with Japanese sneaker and streetwear imprint Atmos. While animals patterns have been a recurring theme for not just Nike, but within the sneaker realm as a whole – think Vans, Supreme, Stussy, adidas, Jordan Brand, Reebok… the list goes on – Nike is without a doubt the head of the pack when it comes to tapping into the animal kingdom’s artwork. In fact, Nike and Atmos together have played a big role in imbuing the sneaker landscape with unmatched efforts in animal print; a case in point being the 2007 Atmos x Nike Air Max 1, Dunk & Court Force “Beast Pack.”

The recent release of the Atmos x Nike “Animal Pack,” however, which features the fur from the Leopard, Tiger, Zebra, Giraffe, and Horse, takes the whole animal print game to the next level. The combination of all five animals comes from the mind of Atmos’ creative director Hirofumi Kojima, and represents yet another example of when Nike trusts an outside creative to run with their wild ideas. Another example of that being Nike’s “What the” Dunks, and more recently the “What The” Mercurials. With the animal print – and the “What The” design for that matter – having expanded outside of lifestyle and into soccer territory, who knows what else we may be seeing in the near future, especially since the sport of soccer is really starting to make its way into more facets of both the mainstream and niche creative industries. Let’s just hope we get to see more authenticity within what’s to come as opposed to bandwagon jumping.

Nike Mercurial Superfly 360 x Kim Jones images by Richard Gordon