An updated version of this comparison can now be read here for the new GX 2023 version of the Phantom vs Mercurial (click here) to read it.
With the current Mercurial and Phantom boots, Nike has two boot offerings that are truly distinct from each other, genuinely giving boot lovers unique options that cater to varying preferences. We compare and contrast them to help you decide which one suits you best. In the end, however, they are two solid boots, so you should be to enjoy your football in whichever pair you choose.
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Superfly 9 vs Phantom GT 2
Superfly 9/Vapor 15 – Present version of the Nike Mercurial; other names for the Air Zoom Mercurial indicating collared/low-cut versions and the generational number
Nike Air Zoom Mercurial
GT 2 DF/Low – Nike’s control boot now on its second generation; also provides a DF (Dynamic Fit) collared and non-collared variants
Nike Phantom GT
The names of the boots essentially give away their respective highlight feature. For the Mercurial, it is the Zoom Airbag acting as the midsole. Marketed as an energy-return feature, Zoom Airbag, in practice, feels more like a cushioning mechanism that softens up the landing of your step and helps in smoothly transitioning you to your next stride. The important thing is that the bounce feels pleasant and unique, something not yet experienced in a pair of football boots.
On the other hand, the Phantom GT is all about the chevron-shaped micro texture on the upper. They aim to enhance grip by adding friction elements, minimising the sleekness of the boot towards the ball. The issue for the Phantom is that the Mercurial already has a textured feel that makes the ‘Generative Texture’ technology hard to stand out. The Mercurial might edge this one because of how distinct the Zoom Airbag feels.
Both uppers have a thin profile, offer a barefoot feel for the ball, and have high-quality pliability. But the properties of the Vaporposite+ and Flyknit of the Mercurial and Phantom GT, respectively, mean the boots ultimately can not be more different. That should be enough to distinguish the two. Nonetheless, let’s deep dive into what you can expect from them.
Mercurial Vapor vs Phantom GT
As a synthetic, the Vaporposite+ has that raw, skin-tight press against the foot. Its combination of an outer chevron mesh, Flyknit lining, and Speed Case frame produces a nice balance between flexibility and structural integrity, all good for lockdown and responsiveness of the Mercurial. Flyknit, on the other hand, gives the plushness and gentleness of knitted material and the resulting more free-flowing movements to the Phantom GT.
It is not to say Mercurial is not comfortable or that Phantom GT is flimsy. It only means that the former has more in the strapped-in, secured attribute and the latter in adaptability and expansion around the foot shape.
How the respective upper and structure feels from both boots leads us directly to the difference in their fit and feel. The base shape of the Mercurial and the composition of its Vaporposite+ make it best suited to narrow foot types (though the current Merc is the most accommodating so far from the silo). On the other hand, the Phantom GT takes care of those on the opposite end of the width spectrum. Their respective lacing setup also works with their fitting profiles. The central laces from Nike’s speed boot securely tighten its skin-fit, tight wrap. The asymmetrical lacing of the Phantom, in a way, works hand-in-hand with the upper’s flex (not to mention the increased striking surface to maximise the GT technology).
The one-to-one fit and feel of the Air Zoom Mercurial take significant assistance from its underfoot’s anatomic shaping, now further enhanced by the Zoom Airbag. The Phantom GT offers a standard flat inner chassis that arguably delivers more recognisable stability for the footing. Tooling-wise, both have aggressive traction despite featuring varying sets of studs, with the Phantom GT’s open-arch soleplate giving more freedom for foot twisting.
The Air Zoom Mercurial has the honour of being headlined by Cristiano Ronaldo (together with Kylian Mbappe) for the Superfly series and by a company of well-established football names for the low-cut Vapors (Robert Lewandowski, Bruno Fernandes, Erling Haaland, to name a few). More often than not, the Mercs are present among players who play up front.
The Phantom GT, whether high or low-cut, can be seen worn by the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Mason Mount, Andrew Roberston, and Rodri. These players should give you an idea that the GT finds itself among midfielders or those footballers with playmaking and passing/crossing abilities.
If you want more information you can read our review below which looks at the Superfly 7 and Vapor 13 against the orignal Phantom GT released in 2020..
2020 Mercurial vs 2021 Phantom GT
With the GT now being the sole boot of the Nike Phantom silo, one can wonder how the latest Phantom stack up against the iconic Mercurial. The following comparisons will help clear out how the boots function under certain areas and ultimately assist you in deciding which boot suits your football boot taste.
The same Flyknit, Different Profiles
Mercurial: Flyknit w/ High Tenacity yarns
Both the Mercurial and the Phantom GT have Flyknit as their uppers’ base material, therefore offering the same pliability, though from this similarity the silos take steps toward different directions. The Mercurial forms a relatively slim profile with High Tenacity yarns to reinforce its shape.
Phantom GT: Flyknit w/ silicone coating
On the other hand, the Phantom GT takes up a wider stance particularly around the toe box, and the only other material is a thin silicone coating overlay for the boot’s highlight elements. The result of this minimized layering is a less tensioned structure relative to the Mercurial.
Based on these factors, it is easy to see that those looking for a snug, strapped-in feel will break for the Mercurial, while those preferring a more relaxed foot-hugging will prefer the Phantom GT.
Ball Touch and Feel
Because of the thin Flyknit upper, both the Mercurial and GT offer a barefoot-like ball touch, though the new Phantom provides more grip because of its Generative Texture elements. So as far as ball contact is concerned, the Mercurial gives a more natural feel for the ball while the GT focuses more on the control aspect because of its raised texturing and off-centre lacing system.
How the boots fit…
The Mercurial appeals to those with narrow to standard width feet and the Phantom GT to wide feet players. Lockdown-wise, the built of the Mercurial, plus its central lacing, goes slightly ahead in terms of being secure, with the Phantom GT going just a close second. Going true-to-size won’t be an issue for both Mercurial and GT, although arguably one can go half-a-size down for the latter for a more snug fit as long as your foot length permits.
Mercurial Superfly and Vapor vs Phantom GT DF and Low
The Mercurial has a collared and non-collared variations in the form of Superfly and Vapor respectively. The Phantom GT does the same with its DF and Low versions. The choice here then is whether you prefer something covering your ankles or the maximum ankle mobility given by the low cuts. The Phantom GT Low though has piece extensions around the tongue and back on the opening to make it easier to slip on the boot.
Introducing the soleplates
The Nike boots diverge in focus when it comes to their soleplates.
The Mercurial, with its chevron-bladed split soleplate and Aerotrak spine, gets more traction and progressive snap with forward-acceleration motions.
Phantom GT: Hyperquick
On the other hand, Phantom GT’s Hyperquick soleplate has a semi-split soleplate structure as it has an open-arch but a lateral bridge connecting the two. This new soleplate also has unique split-slid conicals in addition to chevrons. Overall, this makes the Hyperquick more suitable for twisting and turning as well as side-to-side movements.
Which Soleplate? Both soleplates provide aggressive traction. The Mercurial and its Aerotrac progressive forefoot flex are excellent if you’re all about bursting straight line speed, whereas the Phantom GT is your boot of choice if you prefer deft movements on the pitch and rotational turns.
Who Wears What?
Players who have speed and explosiveness to their advantage tend to favour the Mercurial, while those gifted with deftness of movement and technical ability gravitate towards the Phantom GT.
Cristiano Ronaldo is Nike’s biggest name wearing the Superfly, he has been joined as the face of the Superfly by Kylian Mbappe, who after CR7 completed his signature ‘CR7 Chapters’, they shared the Mercurial Dream Speed Series, England’s Jadon Sancho has also joined the pair on the Mercurial Superfly. The Mercurial Vapor is worn by Neymar.
Phantom GT Players
Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne, a domestic league and cup champion at numerous occassions, headlines the Phantom GT. He is joined by the prolific hitman Robert Lewandowski who prefers the low-cut version.
Which Boot To Pick?
In conclusion, both boots are fantastic and even so under conditions that best utilizes their attributes. In the end, what matters is your football boot preferences, like in the case of you choosing the Mercurial for its slim profile and snug fit and your friend wearing the Phantom GT simply he wants more ball grip.