KENDRY PAEZ – SCOUTED
It’s been quite a week for Independiente del Valle midfielder Kendry Páez. In the afternoon his transfer to Chelsea was officially confirmed and in the evening he earned his first call up to the Ecuador senior squad despite turning 16 just a month ago.
The hype around Páez has skyrocketed recently, his performances at the Under-20 World Cup went a long way to helping that. With three assists and a goal, which saw him become the youngest goalscorer in the competition’s history, Páez has become one of the most talked about prospects in world football.
Chelsea confirmed that Páez will join their squad once he turns 18-years old in 2025, for a figure around the £20 million mark. So, just what led to this 16-year-old from Ecuador’s rise to prominence?
Journey So Far
Páez joined Independiente del Valle at 11-years-old after being moved around at three different clubs at youth level. However, despite being well known in Ecuador due to his incredible potential, it wasn’t until last summer when Páez forced some of the biggest clubs in Europe to take notice.
With many scouts in attendance Páez scored a brace against Atletico Nacional in the final of the Copa Milo with Independiente’s U18 squad. Then weeks later when playing for Independientes U15’s he was also voted outstanding player at the 2022 Next Generation Trophy.
It was clear to many that despite being just 15-years-old, the midfielder was a level above his peers even at U18 level, and thus he was quickly promoted to Independiente’s first team squad in February.
He made his debut against Mushuc Runa and marked it with a goal, a beautiful lobbed volley over the goalkeeper from just inside the area. This goal saw Páez become the youngest player and goalscorer in Ecuadorian Serie A history.
An immediate trait that stands out when watching the Ecudorian international is his sublime dribbling technique, which has become accustomed to many South-American attacking midfielders.
Páez teases and entices opposing players to jump in for a challenge with his close control that looks as if he’s moving in slow motion, and the moment they get within touching distance, he’s already five yards clear, in an eerily similar style to that of Barcelona midfielder Pedri.
Chelsea’s new man is also very positive and unpredictable when on the ball, he’s able to come pick the ball up from deep in midfield and switch his pace to push his team forward. Because of this at times he can even be a one-man counter attack.
His composure is another thing of beauty, you would be certain he has three more seconds on the ball then what he actually has. This helps with not only his dribbling technique but also his passing ability, even with a man touch tight to him, he’ll still be able to pick out a pass with the perfect weight behind it.
With the pace and athleticism to play on either wing, Páez’s versatility will also be one aspect of his game that will come to use at Chelsea, who tend to like those players that can play anywhere behind the striker, such as; Havertz, Mount, Sterling and now Nkunku.
Areas of development
What makes Kendry Páez so special and allows for unlimited potential, is that almost all of his weaknesses are traits that will more than likely improve with experience.
Páez positional awareness can at times be a strength of his, he’s able to find the gaps both in front and behind of the back-line which allows him to get in many goal scoring opportunities.
But, he can be guilty of ‘ball-watching’ at times. If the play doesn’t go through him he can stand around or move towards the ball demanding it when it may be better to pick up an empty space elsewhere on the pitch. Defensively, he also fails to track back when he loses the ball or follow runners as they peel away from him.
Though extremely accurate, the midfielder also lacks passing and shooting range, if he does attempt to ping a ball long over a defenders head, it is more likely to float and allow the defender to recover. However, this is a skill that will be improved as he builds strength.
The 16-year-old also can get frustrated fairly quickly, which results in him arguing with officials, opponents and even his own teammates. As he grows you expect him to better control his temperament.
Despite that, Chelsea fans should be very excited about their new signing as he is sure to be one of football’s next superstars.