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How match balls have evolved since the start of the Premier League

Premier League Nike Ordem match ball for 2016/17
Image: The Premier League ball for the 2016/17 season

Another Premier League season is almost upon us and the opening weekend will be anticipated by fans across the world.

Over the years, the league has evolved beyond recognition since the inaugural 1992-93 campaign. Technology-filled shirts, bigger stadiums, greater coverage and, just as significantly, the match ball itself. 

Saturday will see the debut of Nike's latest and boldest concept since they started supplying the official ball in 2000, with the newest version called Ordem 4, which blends blue, green and purple for a multi-coloured effort to ensure maximum visibility.

Here we take a look back how the ball has developed since the start of the Premier League...

1992-95: Mitre Pro Max 

Mitre had the honour of producing the very first balls used in England's brand new league. The simplistic design was a far cry from the colourful efforts we have become used to in recent years and lasted for three seasons.

2 Dec 1994:  Southampton Goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar in action during an FA Carling Premiership match against Sheffield Wednesday at the Hillsborough Stadi
Image: Mitre had the honour of producing the very first balls in the Premier League

1995-2000 Mitre Ultimax 

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Holding the distinction of being the Premier League's longest-ever serving ball, the Ultimax upgrade quickly became synonymous with football in the 90's, with its distinctive chevrons and memorable moments.

The Mitre Ultimax is the Premier League's longest serving ball
Image: The Mitre Ultimax is the Premier League's longest serving ball

The ball was famously used to help launch a young David Beckham into the nation's conscious, when he lobbed Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan from the halfway line on the opening day of the 1996/97 season, while Paolo di Canio defied gravity to spectacularly volley in against... Wimbledon in 1999.

2000-04: Nike Geo Merlin

Football fans bid a sad but fond farewell to Mitre, as the new millennium saw Nike take over as the Premier League's new supplier.

The Geo Merlin was Nike's first ball in 2000
Image: The Geo Merlin was Nike's first ball in 2000

The ball was used over the course of four seasons and was modified only slightly with different colour patterns. Les Ferdinand tucked away the Merlin for the division's 10,000th goal, while Robert Pires produced a moment of ingenuity and confidence to lob Peter Schmeichel, as Arsenal secured the league in 2002. 

2004-08: Nike T90 Aerow

Pushing the Ultimax almost to the max in terms of longevity, the new circular designed patterned T90 offered a brilliantly clean, simple design and, other than the changing shade in paint job, quickly became a favourite among supporters.

Cristiano Ronaldo hit 31 goals in 2007/08
Image: Cristiano Ronaldo hit 31 goals in 2007/08

Chelsea stormed to back-to-back Premier League crowns and Cristiano Ronaldo was in devastating form as he notched 31 goals to fire Manchester United to glory in 2007/08.

2008-09: Nike T90 Omni

Touted as their most spherical ball yet, Nike introduced the Omni and its red arrow style design helped it to flicker during flight.

Manchester United's Argentinian forward Carlos Tevez (R) vies with Aston Villa's English midfielder Gareth Barry during the English Premiership football ma
Image: Carlos Tevez with the Nike T90 Omni

There were 942 goals scored during the 2008/09 season, but few from that total got past Dutch legend Edwin van der Sar who kept a record 14 consecutive clean sheets for Manchester United.

2009-10: Nike T90 Ascente

Chelsea's Didier Drogba (R) vies with West Ham's Danny Gabbidon (L) during their Premiership match at home to West Ham at Upton Park football Boleyn Ground
Image: Didier Drogab controls a Hi-Vis version of the T90 Ascente

Again, Nike changed up their design and the creative geniuses down at their headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, insisted the T90 Ascente would travel faster and further than any ball before it.

It was a favourite for Chelsea, who found the net on 103 occasions in 2009/10, with Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka all in irresistible form.

2010-11: Nike T90 Tracer

Adidas had a black mark against their name following the failure of the Jabulani ball at the 2010 World Cup and Nike were not about to make the same mistake.

Wayne Rooney scores a sensational overhead kick against Manchester City
Image: Wayne Rooney scores a sensational overhead kick against Manchester City

The most memorable moment with the Tracer came from Wayne Rooney, who after toiling with the idea of leaving, got back to what he does best, showing his class with a perfectly executed over-head kick to down neighbours Manchester City.

2011-12: Nike Seitiro

Specifically designed for maximum visibility and a decade after Sir Les' goal number 10,000, Marc Albrighton slotted home the 20,000th past Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny.

Sergio Aguero fired Manchester City to the title in 2012
Image: Sergio Aguero fired Manchester City to the title in 2012

The Premier League would then witness perhaps its most famous moment, when Sergio Aguero smashed a 94th-minute winner against QPR to give Manchester City their first league title. Cue Martin Tyler.

2012-13: Nike Maxim

There was little in the way of change here, as Nike wanted to keep the same 'sweet spot' which they had used in their design the previous season.

Robin van Persie fired Manchester United to the title in 2013
Image: Robin van Persie fired Manchester United to the title in 2013

One man who certainly found the sweet spot was Robin van Persie, who after switching from Arsenal that summer, fired Manchester United to title number 20 in style, with his controlled volley the pick of his treble against Aston Villa.

2013-14: Nike Incyte

The evolving quest for technological perfection meant a new design and another fancy name.

Pajtim Kasami: controls the ball before shooting to score
Image: Pajtim Kasami controls the ball before shooting to score one of the goals of the season

Pajtim Kasami's outrageous strike against Crystal Palace was rightly considered for a Puskas Award nomination and Liverpool narrowly missed out on their first Premier League title.

2014-15: Nike Ordem 2

The first in the Ordem series, the ball's ability to dip and swerve made for some fantastic goals and goalkeeping howlers.

Chelsea's Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois falls after failing to keep out a long range goal from Stoke City's Scottish midfielder Charlie Adam (unseen)
Image: Thibaut Courtois was beaten by a long-range strike from Charlie Adam

Thibaut Courtois will have nightmares as he recalls flashes of blue and electric green sailing over his head after an opportunistic and outrageous effort from Charlie Adam. Chelsea won the game and eventually the league, so it was not all bad in the end.

2015-16: Nike Ordem 3 

Convention as we once knew it went completely out the window with this one, as the time-honoured white ball had now become a two-tone design dominated with pink.

The two-tone ball was a garish pink in 2015/16
Image: The two-tone ball was a garish pink in 2015/16

Not that Leicester cared much for tradition or the norm as the 5,000/1 outsiders stormed to the Premier League title and caused one of the biggest shocks in football history.

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