Chelsea fans gush ‘real recognise real’ as Blues wonderkid, 17, swaps shirts with Lionel Messi after friendly

1 week ago 9

CHELSEA fans were gushing last night after one of their wonderkids was spotted exchanging shirts with Lionel Messi.

The 17-year-old Kendry Paez will join the Blues next summer once he turns 18.

Getty
Lionel Messi pictured in action against Ecuador’s Kendry Paez last night[/caption]
Reuters
The two stars were spotted swapping shirts after the final whistle[/caption]

Despite his tender age, the midfielder is a member of Ecuador’s national side and has seven caps and a goal to his name already.

He is currently on international duty preparing for the upcoming Copa America but last night faced off against one of the best ever in the beautiful game.

Ecuador suffered a 1-0 defeat to World Cup winners Argentina yesterday courtesy of an Angel Di Maria effort.

However, the most memorable moment for Paez arrived at the full-time whistle.

The Independiente del Valle ace was spotted swapping shirts with the legendary Messi following the game.

And after a photo of it went viral, Chelsea fans could not resist commenting.

One wrote: “Lionel Messi passed on the mantle to him. The world should be scared!”

Another said: “Real recognize real.”

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A third joked that “Messi begged for his shirt”.

A fourth said: “What a player Kendry is, imagine being recognised like that by Lionel Messi, I can’t wait how this boy will cook next season.”

A fifth declared: “He’s heading to the top just like Messi did.”

As another Blues fan commented: “Kendry Páez must be over the moon to have exchanged jerseys with Messi.

“Exciting times ahead for him at Chelsea! Can’t wait to see him in action at Cobham.”

Paez agreed a £17.5m move to join Chelsea last year, but will not make the switch until he turns 18 and will remain at boyhood club Independiente del Valle in the Ecuadorian first division.

He is widely considered to be one of the best young talents in world football and became the youngest ever player to score for Ecuador when he netted at just 16 years and 22 days old.

Chelsea fans will be able to see more of the star once Copa America kicks off this month.

Ecuador will start the group campaign with a clash against Bolivia on June 22 and then face Jamaica four days later.

They will then hope to wrap-up a place in the knockouts with a showdown against Mexico on July 1.

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Meanwhile, Chelsea will be hoping that he remains a little less low-key away from the pitch once he lands in London.

Ecuador’s national federation threatened to axe a number of senior players after videos emerged that appeared to show them, including allegedly Paez, in a strip club while on international duty in New York City back in March.

We also revealed in January how Chelsea were providing Kendry Paez and his family with 24/7 security.

The extraordinary measure comes amid scenes of unrest in his homeland of Ecuador.

The South American country has declared war on armed gangs following a terrifying attack during a live TV broadcast.

Hooded gunmen hijacked the show amid rising violence, with Ecuador president Daniel Noboa announcing a state of emergency.

Meet Pep Guardiola disciple Enzo Maresca

ENZO MARESCA is considered among the most exciting young coaches on the planet.

Born in Italy in 1980, he managed to guide Leicester to the Championship title in his first season as Foxes boss.

His management career started at Italian minnows Ascoli before he was snapped up by Man City in 2020 to manage their Elite Development Squad.

He guided the youth team to the Premier League 2 title in his one season working for the Citizens – with Cole Palmer in the side.

His first senior job was with Parma but he was sacked after just a few months after failing to impress.

Despite the team playing in Serie B and Maresca having an impressive squad he was unable to get them on course for promotion.

He returned to Man City and worked as one of Pep Guardiola’s assistants for the 2022/23 season as they won the Treble.

He took over relegated Leicester last summer and made an immediate impact, with the Foxes winning the Championship title.

Maresca showed his dedication to the job by living at the training ground for the first two months after his appointment.

He’s considered something of a Pep disciple and has said: “For a coach, it’s important to have the mentality of a chess player.”

During his playing career he played under Carlo Ancelotti and Marcello Lippi – and alongside ex-Brighton boss Roberto de Zerbi.

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