Discover why the Chelsea-bound record-breaking wonderkid is one of the most exciting players in South America in our latest scouting profile.

The rush to unearth the next superstar is more intense than ever and Europe’s top clubs leave no stone unturned in their efforts to discover them. South America has proven a fertile environment over the years but ordinarily via the hotbeds of Brazil and Argentina. Palmeiras prodigy Endrick’s impending move to Real Madrid evidence that not much has changed in that regard and yet arguably the continent’s other biggest prospect hails from Guayaquil, Ecuador. 

Despite only turning 17 earlier this month, the jewel already has a $20 million transfer to Chelsea sealed and even at such a tender age seems to have been on the radar for quite some time. 

By the time Chelsea came calling midway through 2023, Páez was the worst kept secret in South America. 

Having moved north to join Independiente del Valle by the age of 12, there had been some buzz nationally around the prodigious talent but it was 2022 when the wider world became aware. 

Scouts from across Europe excitedly scribbled down his name after witnessing Páez dazzle with the IDV under-18s while lifting the Copa Milo and a month later do the same in Salzburg when being voted the outstanding player at the Next Generation Trophy.

Kendry Páez’s key passes during 2023 U17 South American Championships

If 2022 had alerted clubs, 2023 sent them into a frenzy. Fast-tracked to the IDV first team, Páez marked his debut with a goal becoming the youngest debutant and goalscorer in Ecuadorian top-flight history at 15.

A runners-up medal at the under-17 South American Championship followed and then despite only be 16, Páez would go the under-20 World Cup. The youngest player at the tournament netting in a 9-0 thrashing of Fiji to become the youngest ever scorer. 

Chelsea would win the race for his signature thereafter and the records then continued to tumble. September brought a full national team debut at the age of 16 and four months, the youngest Ecuadorian debutant and second only to Diego Maradona to appear in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. Surpassing all however, Páez became the youngest goalscorer when netting against Bolivia in October. 

So aside from the records, what makes Páez so special?

Kendry Páez’s dribbles in the final third - Wyscout Player Report

What immediately stands out is his quality on the ball. Those qualities associated with the archetypal South American playmaker - quick feet, acceleration, dribbling ability, touch - Páez has in abundance. 

Always eager to receive the ball, the teenager’s mindset is to make something happen each time he is in possession. 5.58 dribbles per 90 in this year’s Liga Pro has Páez in the top ten performers and he has looked equally dangerous in the CONMEBOL Libertadores.

Kendry Páez’s ball progression - Wyscout Player Report

Spatially aware with a deft first touch, Páez can receive in tight spaces and has the balance and movement to skip away from defenders to thrive in one-v-one situations. 

This ability also allows Kendry to break forward from deeper midfield positions and provide a valuable counterattacking asset. The 17-year-old ranks second in the Liga Pro for progressive runs per 90 (4.15).

Kendry Páez’s deliveries into the penalty box - Wyscout Player Report

And it isn’t only carrying the ball where Páez showcases his potential to be an elite playmaker. His passing is also incisive, something which highlights not only that technical ability but also his vision and understanding. Top ten for through balls per 90 (1.17) and third for accuracy (66.67%), much like with his dribbling, Páez is equally positive in his pass selection. 

Taking risks to create opportunities, almost a third of Páez’s passes are forward, with 5.84 to the final third and 2.73 to the penalty area, and impressively the drop off in accuracy is minimal. Over 84% accuracy into the final third, 100% from his six smart passes, the teenager among the highest ranking players in almost all the creative passing metrics in Liga Pro for 2024.

Kendry Páez’s passing in key areas - Wyscout Player Report

This allows Páez to play in a variety of positions - ordinarily coming off the right to make use of his favoured left foot but equally able to play centrally as a number ten or a second striker, capable off the left flank and with those deep runs possibly even as an eight in a midfield.

This is arguably more of a possibility due to the physique of the teenager. Unlike the stereotypical, diminutive South American playmaker, Páez is already 177cm (around 5 feet 10 inches) and though a little light in frame presently, may well bulk up over the coming years as he develops physically.

Kendry Páez’s shot map - Wyscout Player Report

With all that said it would be a waste to take Páez away from the penalty area. As a potential difference maker his biggest impact is made in the final third and it is something he has already improved on this year. 

Four goals (0.52 goals per 90) and two assists in ten Liga Pro appearances this year, an improvement from his tally of five in 2023 but at 0.31 per 90. Interestingly with a similar xG (0.24 in 2023 and 0.25 in 2024). Now whether the smaller sample size will see these numbers level out remains to be seen but Páez is now having the direct impact on goal scoring which you would associate with a player of his calibre. 

One thing that has boosted this already is Páez taking and scoring two penalties this season and while of course this presents two golden opportunities to score it’s also testament to the quality of his left foot when standing over a dead ball but also the status of the 17-year-old.

Kendry Páez’s recoveries - Wyscout Player Report

Yet despite being the ‘golden boy’ there is industry too. Like any teenager there can at times be signs of frustration but Páez carries out instructions and presses with intensity from the front. 5.97 recoveries in the opposition half and 2.19 in the final third are figures which have room for improvement but demonstrate many of the qualities top European clubs would be looking for. 

Former manager Martín Anselmi, who gave Páez his debut certainly never had any issues, said, “In Kendry we find someone daring. A boy who asks for it. He is 15 years old and he doesn't care who is in front of him, and he asks for it. He is different type of player. It’s the first time that I have seen such a small boy with that...'Well, let's see, what are you made of', and he shows you, he challenges you.”

What is true is that Páez has stepped up to every level so far. From youth football to the first team, from continental cup competition to international football, no step seems too far. There is a belief in the player that he can go all the way to the top and for most who have watched the teenager it is a feeling that is likely shared. 

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