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Kendry Páez: The Ecuadorian phenomenon ready to take over the world stage

Kendry Paez

Nathalia Tavares

Over the past decade, clubs in Ecuador have turned their attention to their youth academy systems.

Above all, Independiente del Valle's is the one which stands out, having set an example for other clubs in Ecuador and beyond. The club has developed prospects not only fit enough to play across all age groups but also talented enough to make the leap to Europe.

Set to follow a few well-known prospects from the Sangolquí club in the old continent is 16-year-old Kendry Páez. Born on May 4th 2007, Páez was picked up by Independiente del Valle at the age of 11, not only progressing through the club's ranks but also given the opportunity to represent his country.

Since his arrival, he's built a reputation for himself as one of the brightest and most creative talents in South America from an early age.

His rise as one of the most promising prospects in world football happened after excellent performances for Ecuador in the Sudamericano U17 at the start of 2023. Aged 15, Páez captained the team on three occasions and contributed directly to eight of Ecuador's 17 goals in the tournament.

A couple of months after that, he joined La Tri's squad for the U20 World Cup. Having recently reached 16 years of age at the time, the Independiente del Valle was the youngest player in the tournament in which he scored his first goal and produced three assists in four games.

His performances couldn't be dismissed. Shortly after the World Cup, he received his first senior call-up and has instantly become a regular for Ecuador, making his debut in September 2023, becoming the youngest player to ever play for the national team.

In his second game for Ecuador, the 16-year-old scored one of the goals in Ecuador's 2-1 victory over Bolivia in the 2026 FIFA World Cup CONMEBOL qualifiers. And just like that, Kendry broke two more records, becoming the youngest ever goalscorer for the Ecuadorian senior squad and of the South American World Cup qualifiers.

Back playing for his club, things weren't any different. Páez made the bench for the Ecuadorian Supercopa and for both games against Flamengo in the Recopa Sudamericana, eventually making his first team debut for Independiente del Valle as a starter in their first game of the 2023 LigaPro A season against Mushuc Runa.

Still aged 15, Páez played the full 90 minutes of his debut and scored one of the three goals that confirmed Negriazul's victory.

It wasn’t long until Premier League club Chelsea took note of the youngster’s talent and agreed to sign Páez for a reported fee of £17.5m. The attack-minded player won't be joining the London based club until 2025 when he turns 18 years old, which means he has more time in Ecuador to keep building his reputation and establishing himself at the highest level possible.

This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of Kendry Páez and provide insight on what not only Chelsea, but football fans in general have to look forward to.

Kendry Páez: Player Profile

For Independiente del Valle, Páez plays as an attacking midfielder, mostly deployed on the right side, but with the versatility and ability to play through the middle, as the heatmap below shows.

For Ecuador, he's had varied roles so far; from playing as a central midfielder in a midfield five to playing as a number '10' or as a right flank attacking midfielder. Despite a few differences in the way he's deployed, for both club and country, Kendry can play the way he's been most accustomed to.

When watching Páez play, even if it's for the first time, it doesn't take long to realise his insane technical ability. It's no coincidence that some of his best attributes are ball control and dribbling, which support his attacking ability very well.

And, for those who have been watching him closely for some time now, it's evident how much he has developed as he has got more game time at the professional level, being able to progressively show more of himself as a dribbler and creator.

He possesses fantastic close control combined with great footwork, body balance, pace and bravery, which allows him to beat and get past defenders with ease.

He likes to have the ball at his feet, dictating the pace of the match and offering assistance in and around the final third. His awareness and mobility make him look effortless on the pitch. As we see Páez more and more, he is becoming an essential part of Independiente del Valle's offensive drive.

As well as being extraordinarily skilful, the youngster also proven to be an extremely intelligent player. Hi football IQ has continued to develop considerably since his breakthrough.

Able to identify and exploit spaces for attack through the channels, whether those spaces are tight or not and whether he is under pressure or not, is a natural part to his game. His decision-making has room for improvement, as Páez, at times, tends to be a bit selfish, which has a bit to do with his confidence in his skills. Still, he impresses with his fast decision-making.

On one hand, he shows the ability to create situations for himself and the willingness to shoot. On the other, he has a good passing ability at different ranges, which helps him with setting up shooting and goal-scoring plays for others.

Páez is averaging two key passes per game at this early stage of the Ecuadorian football season (only veteran Junior Sornoza has more key passes than the teenager so far). This makes Kendry a reliable, creative source and both Independiente del Valle and Ecuador have been giving the 16-year-old platforms to do so.

Páez has always shown to be aggressive and energetic in order to win the ball back, and he has been able to translate that to senior level, despite being younger and smaller in frame than most of his opponents. His body strength is at a good place for his age.

At the start of his second season as part of del Valle's first team, Páez is showing a real high level of maturity when it comes to his skills and to how he can best contribute to the team. But, events on and off the football pitch make it clear that he needs to work on the mental side of his game. He was part of the big controversy involving some players from the Ecuador national team during the first international break of 2024.

Back on the pitch, it is clear that he gets frustrated easily during matches, which gets to him arguing with referees and teammates. As an increasingly important player for Independiente del Valle and his national team and who will be making the move to the Premier League soon, Páez needs to preserve himself, so he can stay on the pitch and help the team.

A future star at Stamford Bridge

It's easy to forget Kendry Páez is only 16 years of age. He's just a teenager at the beginning of his journey as a professional football player. A journey that, as of now, is very promising.

Although there is room for improvement and refinement in some aspects of his game, there's nothing majorly to worry when it comes to his overall profile. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

Since his step-up to Independiente’s first team, Páez has been shaped to establish himself much more than the average winger - especially for what he can do with his skills and because of the way he puts himself in the game on and off possession. The Ecuadorian is consolidating himself as a playmaker with freedom to play wide or in an advanced centralized role.

It's hard to tell what Chelsea will be like by the time the youngster arrives at the club in June 2025. But, taking the current squad and the current tactical formation preferred by manager Mauricio Pochettino as indicators, Páez would be facing quite a lot of competition for a spot in the team.

On the other hand, if his development continues at the current pace, it'd be safe to say he’d have a considerable impact from the moment he arrives at Stamford Bridge.

The difference in the level of Ecuadorian football to English football is stark. There's no denial of that. However, there is also no denial that experiencing pro level football regularly makes a big difference when South American talents move to England (or any of the other top leagues in Europe).

Páez has had regular monitoring from Chelsea, having made the trip to London to train under Pochettino a couple of times since his transfer announcement by the Blues, and some more might be on the way.

Kendry still has just over a year left at Independiente del Valle and, given what he's been doing, the remaining months promise a lot for his football. Expectations are high regarding Negriazul's competition for the Ecuadorian league title and for their journey in the Copa Libertadores, in which they are group favorites alongside Palmeiras, who have their own wonderkids in Endrick, Estêvão and Luis Guilherme.

Of the many young talents Chelsea have pursued since the club was purchased by BlueCo, Kendry Páez stands out as one of the main ones. Arguably in less of a spotlight than when he was bought by the Blues for €20m, the Ecuadorian teenager is growing as a person and player at the Sangolquí club as he waits to make the definite move to London.

In each game in which he plays, Páez shows he is working in order to compete at Chelsea and eventually establish himself as a big name and attacking pillar at the club.

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