We may only be in the early stages of the Mauricio Pochettino era, but some Chelsea fans are already dreaming of 2025.
The Blues are very much building towards the future in the Todd Boehly era, as shown by a number of their signings being very young and still needing moulding. While the likes of Cole Palmer are thrown straight into the first-team squad, there are some such as Deivid Washington who will have to do their fighting before being given a chance.
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And then there’s Kendry Paez. At the start of June, Chelsea confirmed the signing of Paez, one of their first moves of the summer window, from Ecuadorian side Independiente del Valle. However, unlike a lot of their South American buys this summer, Paez’s move isn’t immediate and he won’t officially join until 2025, when he turns 18.
Paez is, of course, still a 16-year-old but that has just added to the marvel surrounding his abilities. He is already a history-maker, the youngest debutant and goal scorer in the Ecuadorian Serie A, netting on debut three months before his 16th birthday.
Earlier this year, Paez received his first call-up to the Ecuador national team and after assisting on debut, netted his first goal to help his side beat Bolivia 2-1. In doing so, Paez became the youngest-ever goalscorer in Conmebol World Cup qualifiers, doing so aged 16 years and 161 days.
Chelsea fans were watching that game eagerly, as Paez lined up in midfield alongside current Blues star Moises Caicedo, offering a little glimpse into the future at Stamford Bridge.
In two years time, when Paez officially becomes a Blue, it’s hard to tell what Chelsea’s squad will look like. If Boehly’s transfer dealings are anything to go by, they could have 25 new players to choose from. Or Chelsea could be on their fifth new manager.
But if Pochettino is given time in the project, and the current squad is allowed to grow, Chelsea could be in for a treat.
At the back we could see Djordje Petrovic given the No.1 spot in goal, if Robert Sanchez isn’t seen as a long-term option. The back four is one we’d likely see now if everyone is fit except Thiago Silva. By 2025, surely Silva will have retired or at least left Chelsea, being 41. So Levi Colwill can take up one of the centre-back spots alongside Benoit Badiashile — the centre-back that has impressed most of the current options. On either side, if they beat their recurring injury problems, Reece James and Ben Chilwell would remain the full back options as captain and vice-captain.
The midfield is where it becomes interesting. For Ecuador, Paez has occupied a more central midfield role albeit slightly further up the pitch. However, for Independiente del Valle the teenager is often seen on the right of their front three. It’s on the right where he could fit in at Chelsea, given the competition from the likes of Cole Palmer through the middle. Slightly deeper, Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez are the long-term dream, with the former actually assisting Paez for his first Ecuador goal.
Joining Palmer and Paez in the forward positions could be Mykhaylo Mudryk if he is given time and faith to improve on his rocky start. And up top, you’d expect Christopher Nkunku to complete this particular line up and a very fluid attack.
But, of course, there are other options. If Pochettino opted to return to a back three as he has used at times, perhaps to allow more fluidity, Paez could be seen in a more central role. Here, he’d join Nkunku as two slightly deeper forwards/attacking midfielders to play off Nicolas Jackson. Paez could also drift out wide to mimic the front three he currently plays in.
The midfield duo of Fernandez and Caicedo should remain the same, though the likes of Conor Gallagher and Andrey Santos will hope to provide competition. James should continue to beat Malo Gusto to right wing-back, as Chelsea captain, but Marc Cucurella could be an option on the left if he stays. The Spaniard has had a rough start to life at Chelsea, but he appears to be finding his feet a little under Pochettino.
In defence, Colwill and Badiashile could be joined by Wesley Fofana should he beat his injury problems. Axel Disasi is another option, but there is also Bashir Humphreys, currently out on loan who has already made his senior Chelsea debut. In goal, Sanchez for this one, but again it could be Petrovic or even Gabriel Slonina.