30 KITS PART FOUR: SIMPLE GLORY

VALENCIA

HOME / 2005-06
BY PHIL DELVES

Valencia helped me fall in love with football.

We’ve all got at least one team who left a big impression on us growing up, and Los Che were that team for me. The trophy successes and deep European runs were one thing, but it was the mercurial talents of the likes of Pablo Aimar and Vicente that left the biggest impact on the young, impressionable footballing part of my brain.

As the 2000s rolled on the trophies, unfortunately, dried up, but on the flip side, the team lost none of its charm thanks to the arrivals of players like David Villa, Joaquin, Juan Mata and David Silva. But there is one particular detail which the less-heralded post-Rafa Benítez side can claim in advantage over their predecessors. It’s a detail that easily flies under the radar, and it’s one which I want to briefly celebrate now.

Nike kits of the ‘00s have something of a dubious reputation. Their Total 90 shirts are one of the most recognisable designs in football, but they are also the embodiment of a changing time for shirts when the flamboyance of the ‘90s was replaced by a more streamlined (or if you’re of a cynical persuasion: repetitive) approach.

Whatever your opinion of the mid-‘00s from a kit perspective though, Valencia’s 2005 home shirt is a quality bit of shirt design which is sorely underrated.

It’s the perfect example of a shirt that looks tailor-made for a template, which in this case is the Total 90 Mk. II template (a development on the first iteration seen with teams like Portugal in 2004). The standout feature is the top, black section of the kit, where the collar and framing of the chest mimics the bat of the Valencia crest. Just look at it again, it’s an amazing piece of symmetry that looks completely coincidental, but regardless of the motives, it is incredibly satisfying to look at.

Sometimes this is all a shirt needs. I love a daring pattern as much as the next person, but this shirt would be worse with one. I appreciate some variation on a team’s colour palette from time to time too, but without the classic white and black colour scheme this design ends up falling flat.

Shirts like Valencia 2005 will not be the first name on many kit ‘teamsheets’, but like their irresistible squads throughout the years it deserves to be remembered in the highest esteem.

Valencia

MANCHESTER UNITED

AWAY / 1990-91
BY JAMES YOUNG

De Kuip, Rotterdam, 15 May 1991. After two goals from Mark Hughes against his former club, Barcelona, he had given Manchester United their first piece of European silverware since 1968 in the form of the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

This was the start of a revolution at Old Trafford after the FA Cup win the previous season, it had set precedent as to what was to follow for the next 22 years, and it was done wearing an absolute beauty of a shirt.

Just look at it. It’s incredible. A gorgeous, simple but effective Adidas classic all-white affair. No massive corporate gold Chevrolet logo in the middle of the shirt ruining it. Just a red Adidas trefoil logo in the top left corner and the United badge in the other with the words “football club” written at the bottom of the crest accompanied by a red trim on the collar.

If there was a shirt during the Ferguson era to sum up United in that time period, it would be this. Silky, attractive, smooth and classy. It just oozes confidence to show up to play a Barcelona side managed by none other than Johan Cruyff to go and decide for a one-off, ‘Y’know what lads, shall we just ditch the normal home shirt and play in this instead and then never wear it again?’

It also represents not only United in that time period but Manchester as a city. In 1991, Manchester was the best place to live in the world. The Stone Roses had just played their biggest gig at Spike Island the year before and The Hacienda was at its peak. This shirt somehow manages to bring all of this onto itself. It’s a time capsule into the late ’80s to the early ‘90s of Manchester.

Man United

FRANCE

HOME / 1994-96
BY KARAN TEJWANI

After winning the European Championships in 1984 and just before winning the World Cup in 1998, there was a significantly bland era for French football.

Blessed with stars such as Eric Cantona and Jean-Pierre Papin, they managed to do nothing of note and had too much talent but not much of a team. Fortunately for them, however, like almost all eras before and after them, they had an excellent kit.

Keeping the traditional French blue alive, Adidas added a vivid diamond design of the right side of the kit, consisting of the other two colours of the flag to pay homage to the Tricolore. The collar, white in colour, also had thin blue and red stripes and the Adidas logo fell on the chest.

Apart from its stunning design and eye-catching appeal, this kit was also famous for another reason.

A certain Zinedine Zidane, before becoming arguably the greatest French footballer ever and the architect for their forthcoming World Cup and European Championships’ success, wore this very shirt on his international debut against the Czech Republic.

Losing 2-0 at half-time, Zizou came off the bench to score twice for his country and make him a local hero. Unfortunately, that kit didn’t have much glory after it – something it certainly didn’t deserve. France would don that kit for the qualification campaign for Euro ’96, which was to be hosted in England, and that was about it.

Adidas, synonymous with great shirts for ages, also used a similar template for Spain, except that shirt was red, with a golden-yellow and navy-blue diamond design on the side. That shirt in 1994 also inspired La Roja’s strip at the 2018 World Cup, proving that it was indeed a shirt for the ages.

It’s a shame that France’s best kit of that decade was donned just before they conquered the world because that shirt and the magnificent World Cup trophy are a match made in heaven. Nevertheless, it’s important to be grateful for shirt collectors because we’re still in luck to see that great shirt still be in fashion.

France

SAMPDORIA

HOME / 1990-91
BY RYAN QUINN

Why fix something that isn’t broken?

A kit that has changed little and stood the test of time, Sampdoria’s home strip, as worn in 1991 certainly deserves the praise being given here, as does their remarkable Serie A title win that same year.

At the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Sampdoria sported their Blue collared shirt its standout red and black stripes, surrounded by two white stripes and all of which spread horizontally across the shirt.

Sponsored by ERG, the home shirt also boasted two badges; a St George’s Flag in front of the stripes, and the flag of its homeland on the top of the shirt left corner.

The shirt was (and still is) stylish, much like the title winners of 1991.

Managed by the Serbian Vujadin Boškov known for his witty remarks, Sampdoria won the title against massive odds.

They weren’t minnowers, they were a good side who typically finished within the top four places, but this was a time when Milan, Internazionale and Napoli boasted massive talents from across Europe and South America.

Milan had both Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, European Champions with Holland to their name, Inter had German World Champions in midfielder Lothar Matthäus and full-back/wing-back Andreas Brehme and Napoli was where the world’s best player and no.10 Diego Maradona put his magic to work.

Yet Sampdoria would beat these heavyweights on course to winning the title, with centre-forward Gianluca Vialli scoring 19 goals. Supporting forward Roberto Mancini, right-winger Attilio Lombardo and Toninho Cerezo, one-quarter of Brazil’s skilful midfield from World Cup in 1982 and the formidable backline also played key roles. In fact, it was very much a squad effort.

Reading this you may draw comparisons with Leicester City’s incredible 2015-16 title victory, and who would blame you? Leicester, much like Boskov’s side won when not expected to, got good results against the supposed heavyweights; a 1-3 win against Manchester City at the Eithad, and also epitomised why it’s important for to really be a team with good chemistry to win trophies.

Sampdoria

BARCELONA

GOALKEEPERS / 2015-16
BY MOUHAMAD RACHINI

Goalkeeper jerseys are often an afterthought in modern kit culture. While the 1980s and 1990s boasted mixes of lucid dream-like colours, shapes and patterns, the 2000s has seen teams revert back to the classic styles of the past; where one colour – usually a dark shade of green or black – forms the base of the kit, while a lighter shade or white is used for the highlights.

With most top clubs using three, sometimes even four, different kits in a single season, kit manufacturers have focused most of their creativity on the player jerseys, leaving the goalkeeper kits to be uninspired and often just an exact copy – bar the logo and sponsor – of multiple other goalkeeper kits across the football world.

But in 2015-16, Barcelona wanted to try something different. Fresh off of their historic treble of 2014-15, the club decided with Nike that their goalkeeper kit needed some more identity to it – something that would not just scream FC Barcelona, but also Catalan pride.

At first glance, this kit looks plain, even a little boring. Bar the logos, nothing adorns the front of the jersey, and the only hint of creativity comes from the sleeve designs and intriguing colour-combination.

But it’s precisely those sleeve designs – which were unique to Barcelona’s goalkeeper kits – and the colour-combos that make this jersey stand out.

Most critics likely pointed out the similarities to McDonald’s, but the kit actually strikes a little closer to home – the Senyera. This vexillological symbol is the official flag of the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia – where Barcelona is based in – and it represents Catalan politics and pride. The flag consists of four red stripes separated on a yellow background, which is exactly the same design we see on the sleeves of Barcelona’s goalkeeper jersey.

This wasn’t the only intriguing goalkeeper kit Barcelona boasted that season – sometimes, their goalkeepers would also dress in a similar jersey but with a red base and blue stripes. This kit was synonymous with the club’s Blaugrana identity. The club also had the standard black and green variations.

But given how often modern goalkeeper kits failed to connect with their clubs and communities, it was nice to see a major club like Barcelona, with its social and political roots, sport a goalkeeper kit that spoke to its history and identity.

Barcelona

CHICAGO FIRE

THIRD / 2014
BY JASON BUTTON

At a point in time where football fans are becoming more disillusioned with the relationship between themselves and their clubs, Major League Soccer seems to offer a strong counter-argument.

The 2014 third kit from the Chicago Fire was designed by a fan of the Illinois-based club Freddy Christiano following a competition held by the club to create the third kit which the franchise would use in that season.

In a shortlist of five kit ideas which all incorporated the flag of the city, it was this black ‘Heart On Your Sleeve’ effort which was voted for by fans. It was the only design that had a darker colour as the base with the others preferring the white or light blue which can be seen on the famous four stared flag.

The sleek design uses the light blue more in a more subtle way, keeping the flag to the right sleeve.

Unfortunately, this kit wasn’t used as often as it deserved to be at it was the high point in a forgettable season for the Fire who finished the year ninth in the Eastern Conference with only a dire Montreal Impact side keeping them away from the bottom spot.

They used it in the following two seasons as well before MLS decided to do away with third kits, forcing teams into just two kits each season – an odd move in a nation where capitalism and profit rule above all else.

The following two seasons were met with mass change at Toyota Park with former manager Frank Yallop being replaced by Serbian Veljko Paunović with players such as David Accam and Shaun Maloney making the move stateside.

The following year saw the club finish bottom of the Eastern Conference and overall Supporters Shield table with 30 points and the 2016 season only saw an improvement of one point, meaning they were the first side to finish bottom of the overall table for two consecutive seasons.

For a shirt that looked to encapsulate so much civic pride, the seasons it was worn for only brought shame to the franchise. A true baptism of fire.

Chicago Fire