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Kendry Paez

Nation: Ecuador
Age: 17
Position: Attacking midfielder
International matches: 9 (1 goal)
Club: Independiente del Valle (Chelsea from 2025)

Chelsea’s extravagant spending over the past two years has attracted plenty of attention, but the hundreds of millions they have spent in Europe means their recruitment in South America has gone somewhat under the radar.

At 17, Kendry Paez has technically been a Chelsea player since June 2023, when the Blues committed more than £17 million to sign him from Independiente del Valle. But the teenager must be patient: he will only be able to move to London when he turns 18 next summer.

It is a tantalizing prospect for Chelsea fans. Páez has already recorded almost 50 appearances for Independiente after leaving the Ecuadorian club’s academy, just a few years behind his future teammate Moisés Caicedo.

This is not a case of a desperate club forced to take a chance on an academy talent. Independiente is undefeated in 15 LigaPro matches, occupies first place in the table and competes in the Copa Libertadores. Páez has five goals and five assists in 19 appearances, making him a fixture on Ecuador’s best team.

It’s not difficult to see how he caught the attention of Chelsea. From a position behind the striker or on the right, Páez uses his devilish left foot to baffle defenders and goalkeepers alike. He has a penchant for long-range goals and the occasional show-off.

Understandably, for someone so young, questions were raised about Páez’s maturity, especially when he joined some Ecuador teammates at a New York club the night before an international match earlier this year.

But the fact that Páez is even in the senior team is a demonstration of his ability. Of his nine caps, seven came from the beginning.

Páez hopes to be a fixture in Ecuador’s XI at the Copa América. Will the same happen at Chelsea?

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