Rating the best and worst of Europe’s 2022-23 kits: From stunners to zany stripes

We’ve rated the Premier League home kits. We’ve rated the Premier League away kits. So now it’s time to go Euro.

It’s a big ask to review the design choices of an entire continent, but The Athletic has broad shoulders and is very happy to take on the job. Someone has to — you may think that this is not something that is absolutely vital for the smooth continuation of public discourse, but unfortunately, we’ve checked, and actually, it is.

These are merely a selection of designs that have caught our eye from across continental Europe, focusing mainly on the bigger leagues but taking in the good, the bad, the strange and the one with a massive map on it for some reason.

We will have missed plenty out, so feel free to nominate your own. Otherwise, enjoy…

The internet can be a very divisive place, where the only thing people generally agree on is that they don’t agree on things. So, in some respect, it was nice to see the almost unanimous reaction on social media when Barcelona’s new home shirt came out: trash, awful, hate it, ‘release the real kit now, admin’, etc etc.

Well, here comes Harry Hot Takes to go against the consensus and inform you that, actually, it’s nice. Certainly in comparison to their horror show from last season which, despite it being the year they lost Lionel Messi, went out in the group stage of the Champions League and were creaking under the weight of more debt than Barings Bank, was the worst thing about Barcelona last season.

This one is fine: not a classic, but at least it looks like one design rather than about nine of them smushed together.

Rating: 7

Atletico Madrid (home)

A memo seems to have gone around this summer about stripes. Stripes are out. Stripes are old news. Stripes are sad, man. Or, at least, plain old straight stripes, because a bunch of manufacturers seem to have a significant desire for stripes that are just a bit jazzier than usual.

Take this Atletico Madrid shirt: stripes, but not as you know them. Wavy ones. Crazy ones. Zany ones. Apparently, it’s inspired by the Manzanares river that runs through Madrid, but ultimately it just looks like someone is wearing a shirt a couple of sizes too small for them and the stripes have been warped by their girth.

On professional athletes, it might look OK, but for those of us of more substantial means… one to swerve, probably.

Rating: 5

Juventus (home)

Again with the stripes. Juventus aren’t averse to experimenting with the form, as that half-and-half thing from a couple of years ago that looked like a wrestling referee’s uniform proved. This one looks like a stripy kit as designed on a Nintendo Game Boy, the jaggedy variant looking quite Tetris-y.

The stripes also look a bit like tyre tracks which, given the sponsor, you half think might be deliberate… but no.

Those of you who are fans of “kit design press release bollocks” will enjoy the bumf attached to this one, which announces those stripes are made up of a “revolutionary pattern of triangles in honour of the stars of the Allianz Stadium”.

Rating: 5

Ajax (away)

It’s a bit difficult to accurately type out the sound of a cat purring in quiet pleasure, so just close your eyes and imagine that as my reaction to this one.

Ajax shirt designers arguably have more latitude than most to try something new with their away kits, since every single home top is almost by default a stone-cold stunner, but this is a glorious combination of something a little different and classic, clean design.

The dark blue main body, the diamond pattern on the collar and cuffs, the gold and red trim… I’ll take all you’ve got.

Rating: 9

Bayern Munich (Champions League alternate)

Admittedly, this is a bit too similar to the Ajax shirt above, but you can’t argue with quality.

Apparently, it is “inspired by the Bavarian card game Schafkopf”, with the symbols from said game adorning the dark grey background and the deep red stripes providing nice detail and contrast.

We also very much enjoyed this quote from Thomas Muller, which he definitely said himself, about the design: “Schafkopf is part of Bayern – and with a jersey like this, the Bayern heart comes up trumps! We’ll have a good hand in every game.”

Rating: 8

Borussia Dortmund (cup kit)

The mere existence of a “cup kit” should be enough to immediately disqualify this Dortmund number, the dead hand of capitalism once more reaching into the pockets of supporters and extracting a few more coins. But, when they come up with a “cup kit” as pretty as this one, our principles go out the window.

Admittedly, someone at Adidas might want to have a word with their old pals at Puma about this, given it is, to say the least, “inspired” by their designs from the early 1990s with the three stripes down the shoulder, but even they might let it slide in the name of aesthetic pleasure.

Rating: 8

Venezia (home)

Venezia are a football club. They’ll be in Serie B this season. Michael Cuisance, of “nearly signing for Leeds a couple of years ago” fame plays for them.

We point this out because there’s every chance you could have missed it, given they broadly exist as a boutique clothing brand and, for English-speaking audiences anyway, a sassy Twitter presence.

The problem being that if you’re more known for your shirts than for your football, you’d better keep getting those shirts right and for your humble kit-rater at least, this isn’t doing it.

This shirt genuinely looks like a really bad knock-off of an official jersey that you might find on a European street market somewhere, which might be the intention, but it isn’t floating this particular boat.

Rating: 6

Real Madrid (away)

The Real Madrid home shirt is just a Real Madrid home shirt: the famous white, bit of black, a little detail, you know the form. Like Ajax though, they have a bit more licence to play around with the away top, the result of which is this delightful little number.

You don’t get purple football kits very often, and while you might think there’s a good reason for that given this one does give quite strong “potpourri” vibes, it works somehow.

The block design in the background of the main body does make it look a little like an ambient music video from the early 2000s, but for those of us who spent long evenings in smoky student bedrooms around that time talking about deep stuff, man, that isn’t a bad thing.

Rating: 8

Benfica (away and third)

Those of you from outside the UK and/or under the age of about 30 probably won’t be familiar with the TV show Rab C Nesbitt, but it was a sitcom popular in the 1990s about a caricatured Scottish drunk who always wore a netted/string vest.

Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the detail/design on the main body of this Benfica shirt (the white one) make it look like one of those vests? No? Nobody else?

And while we’re here, doesn’t the away shirt (the yellow one) just look like a knock-off Arsenal jersey? Admittedly, it doesn’t help that they share both a kit manufacturer and a shirt sponsor, but… come on.

Rating: 6

Paris Saint-Germain (home)

It’s a good job Luis Campos and Christophe Galtier seem to have sorted out the PSG team this summer, because at least if they’re playing well then fewer people might notice this sub-FIFA 98 template kit they’ll be wearing.

Nike’s “thing” this season seems to be a block colour barging everything else out of the way on the shoulders, like someone attending a debutante ball wearing a bolero over their gown. Sometimes it’s fine, but most of the time it just gets in the way of everything else, in this case impeding what could have been quite a striking white block down the middle of the shirt.

It’s also worth noting that the block literally stopping and making way for the Qatar Airways logo, like an Elizabethan courtier theatrically standing aside for a lady, thus making it the most important and prominent element of the shirt, is a little bit “on the nose”.

Rating: 4

Lille (home)

Lille seem to have quite a decent general starting point for their shirts: a nice red base colour with the freedom to include a deep blue block/trim of some nature somewhere on the jersey. Thus, they generally put out pretty decent kits.

This is no exception.

You’ve got the thick blue band across the chest, which then continues to the sleeves, and then the decreasing white bands below that, which give it a France 1984/98 vibe, which, as we all know, are right up there with the great kits of all time.

They might be trailing PSG again on the pitch, but at least they’ll look better dressed than them.

Rating: 8

Lorient (third)

Yes. Absolutely. A delicious delight, even if it does look a little bit like the tiles you occasionally see in fancy bathrooms.

There is something lovely about a slightly off-white football shirt and one that is speckled with a variety of different colours is particularly enjoyable. The orange, green and black collar is pretty special, too, so while you might not actually see this shirt in action much this season, enjoy it where you can.

Rating: 8

Partick Thistle (special)

Not content with causing nightmares for children up and down Scotland by their terrifying mascot Kingsley merely existing, Partick have decided to double down by putting him on a shirt.

Or, to be more accurate, the bottom half of a shirt, so it sort of looks like Kingsley is climbing out of the shorts of the Thistle players with an expression on his face that suggests he is out to devour the young.

Admittedly, this shirt should probably be disqualified on the basis that it is a “special” shirt which they may not actually wear in a match, but it would have been remiss of us not to include it.

Rating: 4

Bologna (home)

While we’re all for experimentation and teams trying something different, ultimately there’s nothing quite like a satisfying, classic design that could as easily be a kit for a team in 1922 as it could one in 2022.

This is exactly that — a beautiful clean shirt with some nice thick stripes that they haven’t tried anything too funky with, a solid collar and terrific detail on the sleeves.

I regret to inform you that “Cerca. Guida. Sorridi” is actually a slogan for sponsors Cazoo rather than a battle cry from some long-dead Italian revolutionary, which we had sort of hoped it would be.

Rating: 8

Lyon (away)

Lyon’s home kit is pretty nice, but you know what you’re getting with them: mainly white, red and blue bars down the middle of it, bish bash bosh, done. Lunch, anyone?

The away shirt will be more of a room-splitter, but in the humble opinion of this shirt reviewer, it’s the superior design, even if it does look a little bit like someone punched a lava lamp open and then drizzled the contents over a shirt. But it works, particularly the contrast between the red background, the blue swirls and the white trim/Adidas stripes.

Well done, Lyon.

Rating: 8

Celtic (home)

Admittedly, there isn’t too much you can do with Celtic’s classic hooped design without causing a minor riot, but Adidas has taken a decent swing at creating a little variety here.

The pattern in the green hoops is apparently a nod to the club’s shirts of 1988 and 1997, which from a distance looks a little bit like the visual representation of sound waves on an audio-editing programme – everyone does have a podcast these days, after all.

Not really sure what’s going on with the three grey Adidas stripes, though – what’s the point in that? Why not go with green?

Rating: 7

Rangers (away)

Would you look at that.

Let’s get the nit-picks out of the way first: it does look a little bit more like a cycling jersey than a football shirt, more at home on someone with a skinny torso but absolutely massive thighs. That aside, this is a beauty of a shirt, managing to dance along the tightrope of trying something a little different (you don’t get many half-and-half shirts with the diagonal divide rather than the vertical) while at the same time looking clean and uncomplicated.

The thin details on the collar and cuffs are a lovely addition, too, so well done Rangers and Castore, well done.

Rating: 8

Sampdoria (third)

Actually, no, this is the one that looks like a cycling jersey.

If you live somewhere far away from where you grew up and only occasionally visit your hometown, you’ll probably know the sensation of returning to a place that is familiar, but at the same time very alien to you. You know the bones of the place, but not the flesh.

There’s a similar vibe with this Sampdoria shirt: you know the iconic hoops across the chest, but then you look above and below them and you see yellow where blue should be.

It’s not necessarily bad… nor is it necessarily good… it’s just… a bit weird.

Rating: 5

Werder Bremen (away)

Alan Sugar would not approve.

Although I suppose this is more of a salmon colour than the pink he so disapproves of, but either way it’s a pretty bold choice, especially when paired with green shorts.

It’s one of those combinations that shouldn’t work, something you would generally be more likely to see in a pensioner’s bathroom that hasn’t been redecorated since 1983, but you know what? Somehow, it works.

Rating: 8

Inter Milan (away)

It’s been a big summer for football kit bullshit: in this case, please enjoy this from Inter: “FC Internazionale Milano is born out of rebellion, fighting the status quo. Including welcoming players from all over the world. And all over the world our family grows, our brothers and sisters share the same values.”

Which is apparently the reason for their shirt having a massive world map in the background.

You may also notice the Inter badge covers Italy on said map, and I can’t quite work out if that is an amusing goof or is a deliberate choice to say either, “This is where Inter are”, or even, “Inter is Italy”.

All of which could be a complete waste of time because, from a distance, this just looks like someone has spilt a kale smoothie down it and hasn’t cleaned it up quickly enough.

Rating: 5

(Top photo: Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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Rating the best and worst of Europe’s 2022-23 kits: From stunners to zany stripes

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