Nike reportedly lost their contract with Lionel Messi due to a ‘trivial’ issue that led to their relationship with the superstar turning sour.
Messi has become synonymous with Adidas over the course of his career, but before he inked a deal with the German firm, he had been contracted to Nike. The Argentine is one of the most recognisable sporting figures in the world having also become one of the greatest footballers of all time.
Messi’s talent was obvious at an early stage of his career, with Nike quickly signing him up to a lucrative sponsorship deal, supplying him with their football boots, clothing and merchandise while making him one of the key figures in their global marketing.
But according to the upcoming book ‘Messi vs. Ronaldo: One Rivalry, Two GOATs, and the Era That Remade the World’s Game’, by Jonathan Clegg and Joshua Robinson, which is being serialised in the Wall Street Journal, Nike chiefs were left stunned when Messi ditched them ahead of the 2006 World Cup.
Nike had been preparing their stars for the tournament, holding a photoshoot with Messi performing all his tricks. But early in 2006, it is claimed they received a call telling them to scrap the pictures.
They were told that Messi had signed with Adidas, despite having been supplied with Nike boots since he was 14. Nike were also the kit suppliers for Barcelona, appearing to make him a ‘natural candidate’ to become the leading face of their brand.
A combination of factors led to the superstar opting to drop the Americans in favour of Adidas. The book claims that a ‘trivial’ event was one of the driving forces behind Messi’s decision to switch.
endes had made an ‘innocuous request’ to be sent more athletic gear. Neither Nike’s Iberian or South American operations responded to him though, which was enough to ‘sour the relationship’.
The tracksuits would only have cost a couple of hundred pounds, but after being ignored Messi’s father was led to feel that Nike were not treating the then-Barca star properly. Another factor was Nike’s reluctance to ‘go to war’ for Messi in the face of a bumper contract offer from Adidas, as Nike ultimate declined to be drawn into a bidding battle for his services.
Mirror Football has approached Nike for comment.
Nike attempted to fight Messi’s move to Adidas, with a company spokesperson telling reporters “Nike has got a binding agreement with Lionel Messi.” They insisted that the company was prepared to take “whatever means necessary” to prevent Messi leaving.
The dispute was taken to the Spanish courts, with Jorge Messi insisting it would be settled “wherever it has to be settled”. It was soon discovered that Nike did not actually have a contract with Messi and a legally binding agreement did not exist.
What they did have is described as a ‘commitment letter’, but the Spanish judges ruled that was not enough to prevent Messi departing. As a result, from the start of February 2006, Messi began wearing Adidas boots and he is now the face of their promotion.