Ecuador midfielder Kendry Paez gave Chelsea supporters a glimpse of what to expect in a history-making international debut.
The native of Guayaquil agreed to join the Blues from boyhood club Independiente del Valle in 2025 after his 18th birthday.
Paez, who in the past has been linked with Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United, debuted earlier this year against Mushuc Runa which saw him net his side’s third as they ran out 3-1 winners.
Consequently, the 2007-born wunderkind became the youngest debutant and goal-scorer in the Ecuadorian top flight.
Having represented Ecuador at U17 and U20 level Paez earned a first call-up in June before making his debut — at the age of 16 years, four months and eight days — in their 2-1 win over Uruguay at Estadio Rodrigo Paz Delgado on Tuesday evening.
‼️ H I S T Ó R I C O ‼️
Kendry Páez (16 años y 131 días) se convierte en el jugador más joven en dar una asistencia en TODA la historia de las Eliminatorias sudamericanas para la Copa del Mundo. pic.twitter.com/j8t6gI3pzT
— MisterChip (Alexis) (@2010MisterChip) September 12, 2023
As well as becoming Ecuador’s youngest player, Paez is now the youngest footballer ever to represent a South American nation in a World Cup qualifier.
Paez started under Félix Sánchez, alongside future Chelsea colleague Moises Caicedo in midfield, ultimately playing 70 minutes before making way for clubmate Joao Ortiz, while receiving a standing ovation from those in attendance. The rising star had moments earlier teed up Félix Torres with a fine low cross from the left for Ecuador’s second.
It was Torres’ second of the game with his first cancelling out Agustín Canobbio’s opener. Paez’s contribution was a landmark moment as he became the youngest player to assist in a CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier.
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Success, which also turned out to be Ecuador’s first three points in qualifying for the 2026 World Cup finals, moved them onto no points. La Tri entered this phase carrying a three-point penalty for administrative errors in the Qatar qualifiers, and so this win simply cancelled out their punishment.
The expanded World Cup means South America are guaranteed six positions while a seventh team goes into a playoff. Ecuador finds themselves six points behind joint leaders, Brazil and Argentina; the only teams to have won both their opening matches.
Given it will be a while before Paez is en route to London and with Chelsea’s turnover of talent under Todd Boehly’s leadership. It remains to be seen who his future teammates will be. Another highly promising talent linked with the Stamford Bridge club is Norwegian forward Antonio Nusa.
Currently turning out for Belgian outfit Club Brugge, the 18-year-old recently made his Norway debut, scoring and creating one more against Jordan (6-0) before producing both goals in their Euro 2024 qualifier win over Georgia (2-1).