Premier League reveals new Nike ball which could spell the end of the knuckleball free-kick

Sam Dean
The Telegraph
A Nike swoosh - Premier League reveals new Nike ball which could spell the end for the knuckleball free-kick - REUTERS
A Nike swoosh - Premier League reveals new Nike ball which could spell the end for the knuckleball free-kick - REUTERS

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The “knuckleball” free-kick, popularised by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, could become a thing of the past as top leagues prepare to use a new ball that supposedly does not wobble in the air.

The knuckleball technique has become a favoured method of shooting for some top players in recent years, with the “punching” motion causing the ball to move unpredictably through the air, baffling goalkeepers who cannot read its trajectory.

Ronaldo is arguably the most well-known proponent of the knuckleball, although other players such as Marcus Rashford and David Luiz have also had success with it in the English game.

Scientists at Nike claim that their latest ball, which will be used in the Premier League from next season, will have a more “predictable and consistent” flight.

Nike said the ball is the result of an eight-year investigation into improving consistency of football flight.

The company claims the ball’s design “promotes air movement around the ball rather than gripping its surface”, therefore reducing the wobble as it moves through the air. Nike said this will help to reduce misplaced long passes or shots that stray off target.

Asked in 2014 to describe the knuckleball, Bale said: “You want to run up and hit it as flat as you can, with a bit of topspin to get it up and over the wall. Hopefully the air moves the ball and it deceives the keeper a bit.”

Technological leaps in ball production have caused problems in the past, most notably with the Adidas ‘Jabulani’ ball used at the 2010 World Cup. Adidas claimed the Jabulani was the roundest ball ever made, saying it had been tested by robotic kicking in wind tunnels and shown to be its most accurate ball.

Howeve,r it was heavily criticised by a string of high-profile players, including Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Spain’s Iker Casillas, who described the ball as “like a beachball”.

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