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Phantom GX vs Mercurials

Ian Ebbs

With Nike, you have boot choices that are relatively distinct from each other, giving you more room to match the footwear of your choice to your specific ground game. The Phantom GX and the Air Zoom Mercurials (Superfly 9/Vapor 15) differ not just in name, but also in feel and build to make them worthy as stand alone silos. See them side-by-side, learn their respective niche, and, more importantly, let one of boots discover the player that they are going to and enjoy football with…

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Phantom GX vs Mercurial Superfly

We can talk about techs and features all day, but it’ll be all for naught if the boot does not fit at all. Too snug and all the life will be sucked out of your foot; too loose and you’ll have a sliding party all day. You’re more than halfway there in extracting the most lockdown and responsiveness if you can have them fit like Cinderella’s shoe.

On that note, the Phantom GX leans on the wider side of the spectrum while the Superfly 9/Vapor 15, as it has traditionally, falls narrow. Granted that the Mercs are at their most accommodating these days, the choice is actually clear as far as fit is concerned. Most will aim to get as close to a one-to-one fit as possible, but others may view the wide-narrow dynamic in terms of how much strapped-in sensation they like to get. Which means that some might go the opposite way and, say, get a Merc for their wide foot or the GX the other way around.

Size-wise, the Phantom GX runs a quarter size long, with the Mercs staying true to length.

The Uppers: Gripknit vs Vaporposite+

So the GX and the Mercs do have their respective fitting profiles, and that is in large part because of their uppers. Phantom GX’s Gripknit, its headline feature, is Flyknit-based while the Air Zoom Mercurial feature the synthetic Vaporposite+, leading to the former feeling more relaxed and free-flowing, and the latter more structured and responsive. Both are soft and pliable though, and should have minimal break-in time only. Whereas the synthetic upper focuses more on being light and tight by combining a skeletal ‘Speed Cage’ (inspired by Roman sandals)  with thin layers of external mesh, Gripknit (as its name implies) hopes to also add something special to your ball touch.

Nike Air Zoom Superfly 9

Nike Phantom GX DF

Combining high-tenacity yarns with those coated with melted TPU, Gripknit offers an optimal level of ball tackiness without sacrificing upper flexibility. That balance between grip and comfort gives the Phantom GX a bit of an all-around edge for those who find the adidas Predator excessive. Another cool benefit of the Gripknit is that rain would not be a problem as it is water-repellant.

Both uppers are thin and should give you that sharp, barefoot feel for the ball. But admittedly, there is a creeping sense of plushness with the Gripknit due to its sock-like nature. Another reason for this is that the Flyknit tongue (and collar on the DF model), extends further down to become some sort of an inner liner.

Soleplate Construction (and the Development of Tristars in Nike FG Boots)

If it’s the upper that is central to the Phantom GX, the tooling is the highlight of the current Mercurials. Featuring the vaunted Zoom Air technology, the present Mercs have one, if not the most unique sensation, with each step feeling as if stepping on a bubble. Saying that it is cushioned or bouncy is a bit oversimplification, but what we can say is that Air Zoom does take the sting out of hard pitches like dry natural grass and even the artificial ones.

The soleplate of the Phantom GX is relatively simple and is on the softer spectrum of the flexibility scale. That’s nice and complementary of the comfort the boot brings, though some might prefer a more responsive tooling.

What is common to both outsole is the presence of the Tristar studs. Think of it as 3 opposing chevrons rolled into one triangular stud. The Tristar marks a departure for the Mercs, which traditionally relied on chevrons to concentrate on linear acceleration. With the Tristar featuring heavily in the Superfly and the Vapor, the Mercs are at their most encouraging for lateral movements.

Vapor vs Phantom GX

Nike Mercurial Vapor 15 Elite

Gripknit Nike Phantom GX Elite

Still, when it comes to pivots, turns and side-to-side movements, the Phantom GX trumps the Mercurial because not only does it have a couple of Tristars, it also has a set of conicals and a pair of chevrons up front to comprise what arguably is Nike’s most versatile stud configuration to date. So…agility: go for GX; pure speed: get the Mercurial.

Should it be a matter of concern to you in relation to shooting the ball, the GX is low and flat on the forefoot while the Superfly/Vapor is raised. Which one is best for shooting or anything for that matter is up to you.

DFs and Lowcuts

The usual recommendation regarding the Mercurials is to go with the Vapor, as the Superfly only has the DF collar as the additional feature (something not worth the extra pounds if we’re being honest). The same cannot be said with the Phantom GX, as its DF model brings back the Phantom VSN’s Ghost Lacing cover to provide that clean striking surface. The low-cut Phantom GX is more Phantom VNM-like due to the Gripknit providing that quarter covering on the deep laces. Another point of comparison is that the rounder shape of the heel in the Phantom GX contributes to the wide-fitting attribute of the boot, and so this time around the additional material in the DF model does help fill in that extra volume.

It must be noted that the Phantom GX presents some adjustability challenge to the laces, more so with the DF and its Ghost Lace cover. Cleaner look points to Nike’s control boot. Less lacing complications (and ultimately better lockdown) signals to Nike’s speed boot.

Your Phantom GX and Mercurial Football Idols

Not to say that one boot is exclusive to one type of player, but you’ll find the Phantom GX more on midfielders , playmakers or those with technical abilities, and the Mercurials more on forwards, attackers/scorers or pacey players.

Regarding specific football stars, the Phantom GX has the likes of Harry Kane, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, and Mason Mount. The Mercurial Superfly will always have the stardom of CR7, though arguably now has a successor in Kylian Mbappe. Despite not being under official contract, Erling Haaland has continuously wore the Vapor Nike boot.


Ian Ebbs

Founder of back in 2010, Ian went on to create and host their YouTube channel which now has 1.5million subscribers and over 300 million views, he also hosts their podcast which you can find on Spotify. Taking his over fifteen year experience in the football industry, Ian wrote the book: How To Choose Your Boots (find it on Amazon) where he looks to help footballers of all levels find their perfect pair.