53. Adidas Libero (2006-08)
The Adidas Libero template is about as uncommon in the UK as people driving on the right hand side of the road, trains that run on time and sea water that doesn’t have raw sewage in it. In Europe and many other parts of the civilised world, it’s a different story; clubs and national teams alike wore it often, and wore it proudly. So why didn’t it find favour in Blighty?
Perhaps the originality and distinctiveness was too much for British teams and their fans. In 2006, Adidas strove for something different, something progressive. In their Libero template, they achieved their objective. From the neckline, stretched and distorted, to the asymmetric wavy panel down one side, this was a teamwear design for anyone bored with conventional football shirt design.
From left: Ajax Amsterdam (2006-07 away), Anderlecht (2006-07 home), Brøndby (2006-07 home), Canada (2007 home).
Quite what made Adidas plump for that particular shape of neckline we’ll never know. Such as it is, the shirt looks like its wearer has been hooked off the field with a walking stick once too often, but that aside, it’s refreshing to see a kit supplier actually being so brave and inventive. In an ideal world, it would have sparked a revolution for the humble shirt neckline, but as hindsight tells us, traditional design snuffed out any chance of that.
Once the eye is caught by the ‘yanked’ neckline, it quickly leads onto the snaking curves flowing down the left of the shirt, back-filled in a secondary colour. This is a clever way of providing just the right amount of contrast to the main shirt colour without being too annoying. Again, Adidas seemed to be looking for a more imaginative way of employing an established shirt device (in this case, side panels), and did so brilliantly. Using only one panel and connecting it to the neckline in such a meandering way was inspired.
From left: China (2006-08 home), Dalian Shide (2006 home), Derby County (2007 third), Finland (2006-07 home).
To really ram home the curvy motif, Adidas also provided an accompanying pair of shorts that extended the side panel onto the left leg.* With that, this modern, unorthodox design was essentially complete, although in reality a wide variety of short templates were worn. Even without the ‘proper’ shorts, however, the shirt remained the central focus, and like many great entries in this series, opportunities for customisation were plenty.
First and foremost, some teams insisted on a regular round neckline, the freaks. Houston Dynamo, Rwanda and Venezuela were the guilty parties, voluntarily weakening the creativity that made the template what it was. Who rubber-stamped that for approval, one has to wonder?
From left: Guatemala (2007 home), Houston Dynamo (2006 home), Hungary (2006-07 away), Kärnten (2007 home).
More acceptable, perhaps, was the inclusion of a third, or even fourth colour into the shirt’s palette. Romania are no strangers to this sort of thing, and they used red and blue as accent colours very nicely on their yellow home shirts, and particularly nicely on their white away shirts. Nürnberg and FC Tokyo did likewise, the latter making good use of the truncated ribbon and side panel that was mirrored on the opposite side of the shirt. They’re actually present on all other versions of the template, but rarely seen due to their colouring being the same as the body of the shirt.
Continuing that theme, Canada and China took the curved ribbon on the left and coloured that in the shirt’s primary colour, leaving a rather odd side panel struggling to get any attention without it. Hungary went one step further for their away kit and rendered the neckline/ribbon/side panel in the primary colour of white, which somewhat defeated the objective.
From left: Nürnberg (2006-08 away), Olympique de Marseille (2006-07 away), Romania (2006-07 home, 2007 away).
Other teams found yet another opening for personalised detail with the application of piping. Ajax edged their red curve in white to help it stand out on their black away shirt, while Brøndby went the whole hog and used only piping to merely infer the presence of the side curve on its yellow background. A classy touch, and one that surprisingly wasn’t seen on more Libero kits at the time.
So which British teams did wear the Adidas Libero template? Derby County did, but only as a fetching yellow and black third kit. And Liverpool wore what can only be described as a similar template for their own third kit in 2006-07. Worn against Barcelona in the Champions League, it had a specific neckline not seen on any other version of the shirt, while the coloured curvy side panel extended fully into the left arm. Even the accompanying shorts had a slightly different curve, but the overall effect was largely the same if you squinted a bit.
From left: Rwanda (circa 2007 home), Saint-Étienne (2006-07 away), FC Tokyo (2007 away), Venezuela (2006-07 home).
Largely absent from the British football scene but a popular option for teams further afield, the Adidas Libero template gave us a tantalising taste of what kit design could be. Irreverent in its execution, this could have been the start of a new trend that swept away decades of stale repetition. What a pity, then, that it remains something of an anomaly - albeit a much appreciated one - in football kit design history.
(* When seen from the front. So there, pedants.)
As ever, my grateful thanks go to Adam’s Shirt Quest for his help in researching this template.
To see more Adidas Libero kits, visit the Adidas Libero template gallery page.