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adidas Predator vs Nike Mercurial vs Puma Future Z

Three huge launches, but only one winner. We’re pitting these incredible new boots against each other to find out what’s right for you.

adidas predator vs nike mercurial vs puma future

2021 has been a huge year for football boots. And it’s still only February. 

We’ve already been treated to three absolutely massive boot launches, with the adidas Predator ‘Freak’, Nike Mercurial ‘Dragonfly’ and Puma Future Z making us all just a little giddy. But which of these insane new boots should you spend your money on?

That’s right, we’ve put together the biggest showdown since that Neil Warnock moment, although this time we sadly don’t have Craig Pawson looking all kinds of uncomfortable. Or an endless supply of memes. 

Instead, this is Mercurial vs Predator vs Future Z. It might sound like another terrible sci-fi crossover, but it’s actually a handy guide on the differences between these awesome boots. Let battle commence. 

In a rush? Jump straight to the good stuff:

Fit & Comfort | Touch & Control | Traction | Design & Style | Pricing

Mercurial, Predator & Future Z - In a Nutshell

nike mercurial, adidas predator and puma future z all side by side

You might have absolutely no idea what I’m even talking about. It’s hard enough to keep up with the actual football these days, so these new boot releases might have slipped under your radar. Let’s quickly get you up to speed. 

The Puma Future Z was “teased” towards the end of last year, moving away from the old Netfit technology and kick-starting their new partnership with Neymar. Yes, he had a hand in designing them and, yes, his face has been all over the promo campaigns. It’s gone down a treat. 

The Nike Mercurial ‘Dragonfly’ and adidas Predator ‘Freak’ are new names for each silo’s next-gen boots. Both were released in January, with football’s two biggest brands once again locking horns and showing off fresh innovations. Like I said, 2021 has been a big year already.

Shop the Latest Football Boots >

adidas Predator vs Nike Mercurial vs Puma Future Z

Separating these boots isn’t gonna be easy, but you’re obviously not gonna buy all three - unless you’re really caught up in all the hype. Good for you. 

Each boot has its strengths and weaknesses, so your choice will likely come down to your own playstyle and which qualities you find most important. You probably already guessed that, though, so let’s just jump in and see how these huge releases stack up against each other. 

PLEASE NOTE: we are comparing the elite (top-level) versions of each boot here. Check out our guide on cheap vs expensive boots to learn more about takedown models. 

Fit & Comfort

Image from Puma.

3rd - Predator Freak

The adidas Predator Freak+ is by no means uncomfortable, let’s make that clear. Since it moulds to the shape of your foot, you can quite happily get it out of the box and start playing right away. There’s even a new (very large) split-cut collar which makes them much easier to get on than the Mutator. Thank goodness for that. 

I just can’t get over the poor lockdown. Alright, so the narrower midfoot definitely makes you feel more secure than before, but it just doesn’t get close to the Mercurial or Future Z here. To be honest, most people might feel more comfortable in the low-cut Freak.1, especially since it doesn’t have that annoying flappy collar. 

2nd - Mercurial Dragonfly

The new Mercurial Dragonfly isn’t as soft or plush as the last generation. The 360 Flyknit upper has been replaced by synthetic Vaporposite, which inevitably make this feel firmer, stabler and just a little heavier than previous models. You need to allow a tiny bit of breaking in time here to really soften them up. 

All the fancy new tech definitely makes them feel more secure, with the Speed Banding doing wonders for the lockdown when accelerating. Although the pull-tab on the collar doesn’t really work as hoped, this is a solid, all-round fit which should appeal to both narrow and wide-footed players

1st - Future Z 

Yeah, the Future Z really locks you in hard. Thanks to the shiny new FuzionFit+ compression band, your foot always feels securely locked in place, almost like a safety harness for players who can really move at speed. Oh, and you’ll be pleased to know it does this without strangling your feet. Phew. 

Match that up with a surprisingly soft upper and snug mesh lining in the toe box, and you’ve got yourself a very comfortable football boot. However, those with wide feet may find them a little too tight, and they actually run a little longer than you’d expect - I’d recommend going half a size down in most cases. 

Shop Puma Future Z >

Touch & Control

Image from adidas.

3rd - Future Z

It might not look as soft as the Netfit models, but the Future Z is still spongy enough to give you a kinda cushioned sensation when passing or controlling the ball. The subtle Grip Control Pro textures are also supposed to enhance your first touch, but I’d be lying if I said this has really blown me away. 

It’s always unfair to compare this to a control boot like the Predator, but the harsh truth is it doesn’t quite live up to the standards set by the Puma Ultra. The performance is fine here, but nothing much more than that. 

2nd - Mercurial Dragonfly

Make no mistake, the Dragonfly is nowhere near as soft as the last-gen. The Vaporposite upper is much thinner, which brings your foot closer to the ball and removes the plush Flyknit sensation you may have loved. Instead, things feel much… pingier. 

In many ways, this is a Mercurial turned inside out, with the Engineered Mesh lining now running atop the upper and ultimately providing much better grip. Combine that with the ACC, Duragon Wet Traction and insane barefoot feel, and the ball is an absolute joy to have at your feet. 

1st - Predator Freak

I guess there’s really no beating the Predator here, since this remains the grippiest boot silo on the planet. After the insane success of the Mutator, adidas have now reduced the number of rubber spikes and spread them out over a larger area. The result is a sticky, swervy and pretty darn aggressive football boot. 

Honestly, I defy anyone to put on a pair of these and not feel more confident on the ball. The Freak is so grippy it genuinely feels like you’re never gonna lose the ball, with the spiky Demonskin upper once again proving it’s much more than a gimmick. A clear winner. 

Shop adidas Predator Freak >


Image from Nike.

3rd - Predator Freak

Okay, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Predator Freak makes use of exactly the same Controlframe outsole as the Mutator, and there’s no arguing that this still performs well out on the pitch. It’s just as nice and responsive as the last-gen. 

Unfortunately for adidas, both the Future Z and Mercurial Dragonfly have introduced huge improvements to their own soleplates, so the Predator is lagging a little behind here. Unlike the other two, the Freak really is more of a makeover than a revolution, so you can always enjoy the same kinda traction by going for the cheaper Mutator instead.  

2nd - Future Z

Ah, so the name of the boot suddenly makes sense. The Future Z delivers a new Dynamic Motion outsole which is shaped like, well, a giant “Z”. A sturdy bridge in the midfoot connects everything together, creating a stiff and snappy soleplate which feels great when quickly changing direction. Ideal for someone like Neymar, then. 

Puma have also introduced little half-moon studs, which one moment have you biting aggressively into the turf, and the next turning as smoothly as Torvill and Dean. This dovetails perfectly with the sheer lightness of the boot, so anyone with explosive pace could quickly turn into a real nightmare. 

1st - Mercurial Dragonfly

Right then, this is the most responsive outsole to date. In fact, at risk of upsetting the adidas X Ghosted fanboys, you could probably argue it’s the snappiest, fastest outsole currently available. There, I said it. 

The main change from the Flyknit Mercs is the introduction of a solid spine. This essentially firms up the soleplate and provides a one-piece construction, and sometimes it’s hard to escape the feeling you’re being propelled forward. 

Nike have also angled the studs slightly, which might sound like the smallest of changes but actually really helps with quick turns and feints. You’ll be moving like a dragonfly in no time, just without any flying. Fingers crossed for the Vapor 15 on that one, then. 

Shop Nike Mercurial Dragonfly >

READ | 5 HUGE reasons why you should buy the Nike Phantom GT Scorpion.

Design & Style 

Image from Nike.

3rd - Future Z

Gonna be honest, I just don’t think the Future Z even compares to the other two here. The compression band does offer some kind of personality, but the initial launch colourways just all look a bit… basic. 

There’s not really anything that feels “premium” here, and I just can’t escape the feeling I’m looking at an unfinished prototype. Of course, there is a charm to the simplicity, and you might actually prefer it to the more flamboyant Mercurial and Predator, but it does feel like something’s lacking somewhere. 

2nd - Predator Freak

Maybe I’m too into my superheroes, but the Predator Freak looks like something straight outta X-Men. The larger yellow spikes, the stunning blue colourway… there’s definitely an irresistible *ahem* Mystique to the whole launch design here. 

Your eye might be drawn to the high, Cantona-esque collar (which looks cool but is actually a bit flappy and annoying), but there’s also room here for a good dose of nostalgia. The iconic three stripes wrap underneath the boot, throwing us all right back to the days of the Accelerator and a fresh-faced David Beckham. 

1st - Mercurial Dragonfly

Wow. This is probably the geekiest football boot I’ve ever seen, and I’m absolutely here for it. It’s like a Swoosh-branded paint by numbers, with Nike’s motherboard and dragonfly themes giving us a good look at all the tech involved. Yeah, this could’ve looked horrendous, so it’s all the more impressive that they’ve managed to pull it off. 

Those little metal Speed Wings are completely pointless, but the translucent dragonfly-like upper is one of the most striking things I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not usually interested in multi-coloured boots, either, but the way this highlights all the different tech has got me just a tad giddy. I never thought I’d be so excited about mesh lining, and yet here we are.

Shop Nike Mercurial Dragonfly >

Pricing & Takedowns

Image from Puma.

3rd - Predator Freak

The Predator Freak is a great boot, but I’m not itching to spend £230+ on it. Since this is more of a facelift than a complete revamp, there just aren’t enough upgrades to convince me to spend top dollar on it. I’d much rather keep an eye on the tasty discounts now expected on the Mutator. 

However, the low-cut and laced Freak.1 offers much better value for money, so this could be a much more sensible way to enjoy the awesome Demonskin enhancements. Even so, those Mutator deals are looking very tempting already. 

2nd -  Mercurial Dragonfly

Okay, so the Mercurial Dragonfly is pretty much the same price as the Freak. There’s just no question you’re now getting a bigger bang for your buck, what with all the fancy new tech, design features and the visually stunning concept. For me, this would be £220 well spent. 

Of course, you might prefer to wait until more takedowns are released, and we’ll be pulling together a complete guide on the differences between those models. Since these boots show off all the fancy tech underneath, you might just be tempted to fork out for the premium Elite model. You only live once, after all. 

1st - Puma Future Z

You just can’t fault the Future Z on value for money. We’re talking about an elite-level boot, worn by one of the greatest players on the planet, and it’s available for a fraction of the other two. Yeah, so there are things not to like about the performance, but this is still a very good football boot for that kind of price. 

There are obviously a bunch of takedown models you might wanna go for, but you really can’t go wrong with the high-level 1.1 model. Oh, there’s loads of great discounts on the Puma Ultra, too, which is a much better option for those who prefer speed over comfort. 

Shop Puma Future Z >


Image from Nike.

All three boots are awesome, in all honesty. I could quite happily sit here and tell you that they’re all equally great, and that your choice depends entirely on your own playstyle. There might be some truth to that statement, but it would also be a bit of a cop-out and waste of your time. 

We need a winner. And we’re crowning the Nike Mercurial Dragonfly as the pick of the three. 

The design and on-pitch performance just edges out the other two overall, bursting with enough new tech to make Bill Gates blush. It’s an essential buy for any fans of the old-school synthetic Mercs, while fans of Flyknit will be drooling over the Vapor 13 discounts dropping in already. Ah, everyone’s a winner. 

WINNER: Nike Mercurial Dragonfly

Shop Nike Mercurial Dragonfly >

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This blog is part of our Boot Battles series. Check out some of the other boots we’ve pitted against each other: 

X vs Mercurial | Predator vs ACE | Kaiser Liga vs Copa Mundial | Phantom VNM vs VSN

Ben Hyde

Rubbish FIFA player with an addiction to buying football shirts which are way too cool for me.