Nike unveils official Merlin football for new Premier League season
Nike's four-panel Merlin match ball is designed to give more control to footballers playing in this season's Premier League, La Liga and Serie A.
Merlin will be the official football used in the Premier League in England, which kicks off tonight when Manchester United take on Leicester City.
It will also be used in Serie A in Italy, which gets underway on 18 August, and in La Liga in Spain, which begins on 19 August.
Nike designed the ball to respond better to a player's touch, allowing them to maintain control in all weather conditions.
Merlin is constructed from four external panels, rather that the traditional 12 – something the Premier League describes as a world first.
Reducing the number of separate panels that the ball is made from increases the striking surface, which increases the amount of contact between a footballer's boot and the ball. This will give footballers better control of the ball.
The reduced number of panels also reduces the number of seams on the ball by 40 per cent, eliminating many of the hard spots on the ball and creating "a more pronounced sweet spot".
The white ball has a purple hexagon pattern across it, with highlights of turquoise and neon yellow to help the players track the ball and identify spin, speed and trajectory.
These colours are 3D-printed onto the ball and "engineered to dry at levels and locations that vary by millimetres" to improve aerodynamics.
Inside, the bladder is made from latex rather than the traditional rubber, which will help the ball maintain a consistent shape and maintain air pressure.
Merlin was the name given by Nike to the first four balls it provided to the Premier League, between 2000 and 2004. But the name hasn't been used since then. This is now the sportswear company's 18th season as the official supplier for the Premier League.
Many of the players using the Merlin may be wearing Nike's PhantomVSN boot, which was launched this season to support a more attack-focused style of play.
This season Premier League team Manchester United will play some games in an Adidas kit made from ocean plastic. The sportswear company was responsible for making the official World Cup 2018 match ball.