Kendry Paez (Independiente del Valle) – An in-depth analysis of Ecuador’s future star

More and more clubs in Ecuador have put emphasis on the youth academy in recent years. With ten of the 26 players in Ecuador’s squad for the World Cup 2022 having played for Independiente del Valle at youth level, it is safe to say that Independiente del Valle have set an example for the others in Ecuador. The facilities at the Sangolquí club have only been improving over the last years, which has only led to better results at youth level. The current generation (2005-2007) has a wide range of talented players who are all destined to play for the first team of Independiente del Valle. The most talented of them all is 15-year-old Kendry Páez.

Kendry Páez was born on the 4th of May in 2007 in Guayaquil. At the age of 11, the talented midfielder was picked up by Independiente del Valle. Since then, Páez has made his way through the youth academy, playing for almost every youth team in the academy ranging from 2018 to 2022. This year, the Ecuadorian has played matches for the under 15’s, under 17’s and under 19’s at league level, but he also took part in international tournaments for the under 18’s (Copa Milo, hosted by Independiente del Valle), under 16’s (Adidas Cup, hosted by Flamengo) and under 15’s (Next Generation Trophy, hosted by RB Salzburg).

The promising midfielder’s best position at youth level is attacking midfield. However, he has also played in a free role on the right as a wide playmaker, while also playing slightly deeper on the pitch as an advanced 8. Kendry Páez prefers to play on the right in a midfield three as the most advanced midfielder. More about his position(ing) will follow later in this player report.

People (who have been) close to Kendry Páez confirmed to me that Páez is around 1.77 meters tall. At the age of just 15, it is likely that he will grow another 7-8 centimeters. The midfielder has a very lean build, but seemingly has pretty decent upper body strength to hold off opponents at youth level. He rarely loses shoulder-to-shoulder duels, even if he is playing against older opponents. This is mainly because of his explosive burst of acceleration and low centre of gravity. He is often quicker than the opposition’s defence and has the advantage in duels due to his excellent athleticism, allowing him to quickly change directions and turn away from his opponent to maintain possession. Kendry Páez is capable of maintaining his speed over long distances, but his initial burst of speed is what gets him away from his marker.

Kendry Páez has excellent balance and coordination. It often happens that Páez takes on multiple opponents in one action, having to make his way past defenders and always staying on his feet. The Ecuadorian midfielder does not go to the ground easily, even maintaining his balance when he dribbles past multiple opponents in small spaces as you can see in the video down below. This is just one of the many examples, as Páez really enjoys taking on multiple opponents before eventually scoring.

The midfielder does not often get into physical ground duels with his back towards the goal. When he gets put under pressure, he usually plays a one-touch pass backwards or he tries to play a quick one-two with a nearby teammate, using his good balance and coordination to stay on his feet even when he gets pushed in his back. Because of his game intelligence, Páez very often does well to stay out of the duels. When he gets into a 50/50 duel, Kendry Páez usually comes out on top because he often outsmarts his opponent and he reads the game very well. The Ecuadorian completed many 90s this season, but there have been a lot of matches where he did not have to play at high intensity for 90 minutes. He rarely gets subbed off, and even in the bigger matches he is capable of playing the full 90. In other words, his stamina is at a good level for someone of his age.

Kendry Páez seemingly has improved his leap and general ability in aerial duels. Even though he is very bad at heading, he is contesting more aerial duels and also winning more of them. The youngster has a decent leap, but his timing is still slightly off and it does not help either that he is not the tallest on the pitch. His work rate is at a decent level, but there is room for improvement even though it has already been improving over the past few months. While he was lazy out of possession pretty often, playing in midfield at a higher level has helped him to fulfill his defensive tasks and to work harder out of possession. There are still moments in which he waits around the halfway line when the opponent has settled possession on Independiente del Valle’s half, but it happens less often and could also be a tactic of the manager, as it only happens when Independiente del Valle are chasing an equalizer/winner.

With that being said, Kendry Páez looks a different player when Independiente del Valle is in possession. He always wants to have the ball, dropping deep very often while also trying to move into space very often. He also has been making more and more high-intensity runs in behind over the last couple of months, showing that he can also be a player who makes late runs into the box or runs in behind.

As mentioned before, Kendry Páez usually plays as the most advanced midfielder on the right side in a midfield three. All Independiente del Valle youth teams play in a possession-based 4-3-3 that is based on being the dominant side and winning the ball back as quickly as possible. The Ecuadorian midfielder is mostly involved in the build-up when Independiente del Valle have settled possession on the opposition’s half. However, he does sometimes drop deep into his own half to be more involved in the first-phase build-up. From this position, Páez usually goes for a long pass to one of the wingers or he carries the ball forward before passing it into the one of the other midfielders.

When Independiente del Valle have settled possession on the opposition’s half, Páez likes to drop a little deeper to receive the ball more often. Páez prefers to start out wide, receive the ball there and then carry the ball inside before releasing the ball. However, in matches where Independiente del Valle have possession on the opposition’s half a lot (almost every game), Kendry Páez roams around the pitch because he wants to receive the ball as much as possible. An example of this can be seen in the video down below. It is not the best example, but it shows what Kendry Páez likes to do. Receive out wide, come inside and switch play, play a through pass, put in a cross or shoot from distance.

One of the biggest rooms for improvement for Kendry Páez is to keep it more simple on his own half. When Independiente del Valle recover possession in their own defensive or midfield third, Kendry Páez likes to take on opponents or take risks close to his own box or near the halfway line. It does happen a fair few times that he loses the ball in this situation, possibly leading to a big chance for the opponents. I think that it is likely that Kendry Páez will start doing this less and less when he gets more mature.

Kendry Páez’s receiving skills are excellent. He controls all types of passes well and his teammates trust him a lot as he often receives powerful passes while being closely marked by an opponent. As he is just 15, it does happen rarely that he has an awkward touch, but even when that happens, he often stays in possession because he quickly regains control over the ball. At this level, he often has time to take two or three touches. However, in most cases he only needs one touch to get full control over the ball.

Because he has full control over the ball, Páez likes to play one-touch football as he is capable of playing quick combinations with his nearby teammates. When he drifts inside, he likes to play a one-two before switching play. The Ecuadorian youth international has an excellent passing technique and a very extensive passing range. Páez strikes the ball very cleanly and has a very good kicking technique with his left foot. He is capable of playing long passes with a lot of curve on it, but he can also play crosspasses and volleyed passes with his stronger left foot. For someone of his age, he has an extraordinary passing range and it is interesting how many different passing techniques he can apply in a match. I could have shown tons of clips, but here is one pass that I really liked, even if there wasn’t any pressure from an opponent.

The left-footed midfielder is also a very dangerous player from set-pieces. He scored multiple free-kicks this season, while also being dangerous from corners. His delivery from corners can sometimes float a bit too much, but he has given several assists from set-piece situations this season. Páez is comfortable taking penalties in penalty shoot-outs, looking at his goals against Macará sub-19 in the quarter-finals of the league and Inter Milan u-16 in the semi-finals of the Next Generation Trophy.

At his young age, it is not strange that he still plays some loose passes, but it generates a lot of interest and excitement that he is already this good on the ball. On his weaker right foot, he understandably does not have this extensive passing range but he still is able to play through passes with his right foot. He is not a two-footed player, as his left foot is clearly more gifted than his right foot, but his right foot is at a sufficient level. However, I think it would be good for Páez to develop his right foot even further.

Kendry Páez had a good goal-scoring record in 2022 with 16 goals in 19 matches in the league, while also scoring a lot at the international tournaments (Copa Milo – U18, Adidas Cup – U16 and Next Generation Trophy – U15/16) he played at and scoring for Ecuador under 17. Most of Kendry Páez’s goals early on in the season came from shots from outside the box (free-kicks, shots from distance) but more recently he has developed the ability to score from inside the box too. He can make good runs into the box, arriving at the right time and being aware of where the space in the box is.

Here is a goal after making a good run into the box:

Kendry Páez is a very intelligent player with great tactical understanding. Playing on the right in a midfield three, Kendry Páez often drifts out wide whenever Independiente del Valle’s right-winger, mostly Anthony Montezuma, tucks inside. Creating space for himself, Páez is always receiving the ball in space giving himself extra time and space on the ball to think of his next move. From this position, the Ecuadorian midfielder links up really well with the right-back and right-winger. He always seems to know where his teammates are and often makes the right decision on the ball. In the image down below you can see an example of Páez drifting out wide while Montezuma has moved inside..

The youngster from Guayaquil likes to take on multiple opponents often from the right-wing looking at his goals against Argentina sub-17, Buhos sub-17 and LDU Quito sub-17. This does not mean that he blindly takes on his opponents though, as he always manages to look over the ball to see where his teammates are. He combines well with teammates around the box to create space for himself and to get past his marker. Páez is at best on the right in a midfield three, as I mentioned. However, he also is capable of creating chances from the left wing, putting in crosses that land in between the defence and goalkeeper. Even though his right foot is pretty good, he is slightly less dangerous from the left because he takes on less opponents and is more limited because he does not cut inside to his weaker right foot.

When receiving the ball on the right wing, Páez is very good in the attacking 1v1 duels. In the late stages of the game, when Independiente del Valle are chasing a goal, Páez often tries to draw fouls to get a free-kick. He always succeeds in doing so, as his timing in the attacking 1v1s is excellent. During the times that the Ecuadorian does not try to draw fouls, he has no problems getting past his marker. He likes to use quick stepovers, but his feints and quick changes of direction are usually enough to beat the defender. If Páez has space on the right side near the box, the chance is very big that there will be a huge opportunity for Independiente del Valle to score.

Kendry Páez has a very high attacking output but is sometimes still a bit too wasteful in possession. He is an extremely high-risk high-reward player who will lose the ball a fair few times in a game. However, he always creates at least one big chance for himself or his teammates in the match and is generally good in the build-up because he is comfortable taking on opponents and playing vertical passes. Even though Kendry Páez is mostly a creator, the Ecuadorian seems to be a natural goal scorer too as he has great anticipation in the box, always finding space well and reacting quickly to rebounds and crosses. He always finds space in the box and his finishing in the box is great. He rarely misses the target and scores with nearly every shot he takes in the box. Páez always strikes the ball cleanly when he needs to take the shot on his first touch.

In the video down below, you can see one of the good runs of Kendry Páez where he finds space really well. It is a skill that he has developed over the past year.

In the video compilation on YouTube that is linked at the bottom of this page, you can see with what kind of intensity Kendry Páez can sometimes put pressure. Because he reads the game so well, he often already knows what is going to happen, allowing him to put pressure on the opponent and win the 50/50 duel. Páez often recovers possession near the halfway line but still needs to improve in terms of staying in position and helping out defensively. He has improved in this over the past months, but there is still room for improvement. When the ball is not near, Páez has the tendency to rest and stay in his position without actively taking part in the game. During the times that he does this in late stages of the game when Independiente del Valle are chasing a goal, it could be a tactical choice by the manager as Páez is so good on the ball, but when they are in front I doubt it is a tactical choice. With that being said, I think that Páez has the stamina and tactical understanding to become a good presser, he just needs to be willing to do this for 90 minutes. It is something that he has to improve on if he wants to make it in the top 5 leagues.

I previously wrote in my scout report about Páez that there is room for improvement in his scanning. However, he has picked up on this as he has played some matches with the U-19. It is a higher-intensity game and he has learned to scan before receiving. Páez always seems to know where his teammates are and always turns the right way. His vision is generally one of his best abilities. The midfielder has the abillity to play passes that not many midfielders play. He always does well to spot teammates in space and even if the execution is not always there, he is a very creative player with high attacking output. Páez especially seems to have a really good relation with Anthony Montezuma, as he has assisted him multiple times this season. The Ecuadorian midfielder has very quick decision-making, always thinking quickly and playing the right passes under pressure.

One of the examples where Páez did the unthinkable was in the match against Red Bull Leipzig U-16 in the Next Generation Trophy. He recovered possession near the halfway line, spotted that the goalkeeper was positioned too far from his own goal and had the ability, vision and technique to score from near the halfway line.

It is obvious that Kendry Páez plays with a lot of confidence. Even when he plays a bad match, Páez keeps his head high and keeps attempting and pulling off difficult passes or dribbles. The midfielder can sometimes show signs of disciplinary issues during the match, being frustrated with teammates and screaming at them when they make a mistake. He seemingly has been improving on this recently though, being less frustrated and focusing on his own game. Outside of the pitch, there have been some rumours about disciplinary issues too, but as I don’t know him personally I can’t really judge on that.

What’s next?

Kendry Páez is one of the biggest talent I have ever seen in Ecuador. His talent is comparable to Moises Caicedo. Páez is at best as the most advanced midfielder, on the right, in a midfield three in a dominant, attacking-minded team. The Ecuadorian midfielder has excellent technique and vision, while also having great tactical intelligence. His dribbling is outstanding. Páez is also good at shooting from long-range and he has good finishing. He needs to improve out of possession defensively, while he should also try to take less risks on his own half in transition. He should try to gain more muscle mass over the coming years, while also trying to develop his right foot even more.

I think that it is of his best interest to be forced outside of his comfort zone. That is why it would be good for him to already train with the first team or to get some good sub appearances. It should be a good incentive for him to focus more on his professional career and it will help him to become a good football player overall. He will be a starter for Independiente del Valle U-19 next season but should also get some full matches for Independiente Juniors, who are playing in the second tier of Ecuadorian football. I think he will make his official debut for Independiente del Valle in 2023, which would probably make him the youngest debutant for the Ecuadorians ever.

The Ecuadorian midfielder is already on the list of many European clubs and will be sought after by many clubs when he turns 18. He will probably be Independiente del Valle’s record-breaking transfer in the summer of 2025. I think it would be good for him to move to one of the leading teams outside of the top 5 leagues. As Portuguese football does not suit him that much, I think that Ajax could be a good destination for Páez. He suits the playing style of the Dutch club extremely well as his playing style is pretty similar to Hakim Ziyech. Kendry Páez has the potential to play for one of the world’s elite but only if he is fully dedicated to his professional career.

I also made a video compilation about him:

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