Chelsea have announced the signing of Independiente del Valle’s 16-year-old Kendry Paez.
The Ecuadorian will join the club after his 18th birthday in May 2025, where the rules stipulate South American players cannot join European clubs until they reach this age.
Although Chelsea are known for signing young prodigies, often shipping them out on loan, it’s a fair assumption to believe this one is no different. Not this time, however. So, who is Kendry Paez and why should Chelsea fans be excited?
The Record Breaker
Paez became the youngest debutant and scorer for IDV in the Ecuadorian top flight when he found himself on the scoresheet against Mushuc Runa at just 15 years old earlier this year.
Then one day before he turned 16, Paez found himself making his Copa Libertadores debut against Corinthians in Brazil, where he came on for the final 20 minutes. A deal was already in place to bring the creative midfielder to Chelsea before Paez featured in the U20 World Cup for Ecuador - a clever move considering his performances. This is where he really caught the eye, and why those who follow Chelsea began to see why the club was so keen to secure his signature. Still playing four years below his age category, Paez was completely unphased during his stint in Argentina. After a 1-0 defeat to USA, Paez and his teammates bounced back with a 2-1 victory over Slovakia, in which IDV’s star assisted Ecuador’s equaliser. Paez also hit the bar when the match was tied. In the final group stage match, Paez found himself on the scoresheet against Fiji, becoming the youngest player to ever score at the U20 World Cup.
He was able to win an important penalty against South Korea, yet it wasn’t enough as Ecuador were knocked out 3-2 in the last 16. However, in the four matches Paez featured in, his creativity and natural ability to run at defenders was evident to see.
Paez is ready for the next step
Left-footed players who operate on the right hand side effectively are a rare breed, and although this is far from what Paez is limited to, his unpredictability in the final third has seen him become one of the finest talents in South America.
At just 16 years of age, it’s incredible how composed he is on the ball, especially in attacking areas where he’s often swarmed by opposition. Delicate flicks, through balls and one-twos are further signs of his footballing intelligence, often a step ahead than others on the pitch.
His vision is excellent and arguably one of his best assets. Paez’s ability to switch the play when dropping deep is another key area to his game which often goes under the radar.
Operating around the 18-yard box is where we see the best of Paez, spotting runs and playing through balls not even Real Madrid’s Ozil would have seen.
Although he’s a highly unselfish player, the Ecuadorian certainly knows where the back of the net is. Whether found lurking in the six-yard box anticipating where the ball is going to drop, or simply lining up strikes from outside the box, he’s already proven to be lethal in front of goal.
Despite his future with Chelsea confirmed, the Copa Sudamericana champions will be more than grateful they’ll have just under two years to help Paez develop further and hopefully bring the club more success.
No doubt Chelsea will be working with IDV already to monitor his progress, game time in the Copa Libertadores against some of the strongest teams in South America will only be good for the 16-year-old.
After impressing at the U20 World Cup, Paez is already looking at a senior national debut in the coming months, where experience at that level will be invaluable as he continues to learn his trade and develop as both a player and a man.
It’s difficult to know who will be in charge at the London based club in 2025, but whoever that might be will find themselves in a very privileged position with Kendry Paez arriving, having spent two years preparing for his Premier League debut. Intrigued to see Kendry Paez in action? Independiente del Valle will host Corinthians in the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday 7th June at 23:00 UK time.