Chelsea wonderkid Kendry Paez broke an international record set by Pele, is likened to Messi and is starring for Ecuador | The Sun

CHELSEA's transfer policy over the past few windows may have been ridiculed, but in Kendry Paez they have seemingly unearthed a gem.

The Ecuador wonderkid, just 16, was signed from Ecuadorian club Independiente del Valle for £17million back in June.

Seen as one for the future, he won't appear for the Blues until 2025, when he turns 18.

But, if you ask Uruguay's seasoned pros Federico Valverde and PSG hatchet man Manuel Ugarte, they will argue he's ready for the big time.

The teenage prodigy, who has been likened to Lionel Messi, put on a wondrous display in midfield as Ecuador defeated Marcelo Bielsa's side in a World Cup qualifier 2-1.

The icing on a cake was setting up Felix Torres to score the winner, which put Paez in the history books.

He is now the youngest assist maker in South American football – beating a long-standing record set by the late great Pele.

But his journey to being the next big thing has had its sacrifices.

Early years

Paez's budding career began in Ecuador's second city, Guayaquil.

He played for three teams growing up, including Barcelona Sporting Club in his homeland.

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However, he would have to travel 160 miles away from his family to follow his dreams for his big break.

He joined Independiente del Valle's academy in Sangolqui, found on the outskirts of Quito, when he was just 11.

It showed fearlessness, a hunger and ambition to succeed, and an unbridled determination to reach the top.

This starlet was on his way.

Europe, take note

It was in 2022 when Europe's top clubs became aware of Paez's emerging talent.

With Independiente's U18s, he won the prestigious Copa Milo – with scouts from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund present.

He was the star of the show, scoring twice in the final against Colombia's Atletico Nacional.

A month later, he was named the outstanding player at the Next Generation Trophy in Salzburg for their U15 side.

Independiente defeated youth teams from Inter Milan and RB Leipzig, as they reached the final.

The goal of the tournament also belonged to Paez. An audacious lob from inside the centre circle against the Germans.

Dream debut

Last season, Paez made his long-anticipated debut for Independiente against Mushuc Runa aged just 15.

He became the youngest player to appear in Ecuador's top flight, before shattering another record.

When Anthony Landázuri cut the ball back to Paez on the right-hand side of the penalty area, he instinctively floated the ball over the goalkeeper, Jorge Pinos, on the volley into the corner of the goal.

That strike made him the youngest goalscorer in the LigaPro.

His performances last season earned him plaudits from boss Martin Anselmi.

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Blessed with quick feet, Paez has been likened to Lionel MessiCredit: Getty
Paez is highly thought of in his homelandCredit: Getty

"It is not normal for a 15-year-old boy in the first division to have earned the respect of the soccer world in such a short time," he said.

"He runs, recovers, interprets the game, he is very intelligent to play. When we ask him to get into a certain position to generate an advantage, he does it.

"All his movements are trained, he carries them out perfectly, understands the game very well and is a guy who is very down to earth in all those ways."

International stardom

This week, Paez showed he was the real deal on his international debut for his country.

He was thrown into the cauldron against Uruguay in a crunch World Cup qualifier.

He wasn't fazed, though.

His appearance at 16 was just shy of the age Diego Maradona first appeared for Argentina, which is a South American record.

But, he played like a man in the face of tackles flying in from Real Madrid stopper Valverde and hardman Ugarte.

In one instance, the latter blatantly tried to shove him off the pitch as he chased a loose ball bouncing down the touchline.

Paez not only beat his opponent to the ball, he shrugged off the cynical move to stay on his feet and set up another attack.

The attacking midfielder would also make more history in that game.

With the game level at 1-1, he received the ball on the left wing, quickly whipping in a low cross for Felix Torres to slide home a winner.

The crowd went ballistic, as his team-mates congratulated Paez for his assist.

Better still, that assist beat a long-standing record held by Brazil legend Pele as the youngest to do so in the South American game.

Caicedo rates him

Joining Chelsea means he will get the opportunity to link up with fellow countryman, Moises Caicedo.

The former Brighton midfielder has already raved about Paez's talents.

Back in June, he told La Cancha Con Majo: “He’s a crack!

“The truth is there are times where I watch Independiente games. It’s good to see those talents in Ecuador because we know we have very good youth.

“I’m very happy for him, for everything that he’s doing.


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“All I can tell him is keep on the right track, doing things really well, and he’s going to go really far because the talent he has is incredible.”

Blues fans should get very excited indeed.

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