The tall drink of water (no, not Drinkwater) you see slightly out of focus in the picture at the top, behind the grinning Kendry Páez and the smirking Behdad Eghbali, is a young footballer named Pape Daouda Diong (sometimes spelled “Papa” and “Diongue”). All three were in the owner’s box last night, taking in Chelsea’s rousing League Cup quarterfinal victory over Newcastle United.
Kendry was making an expected appearance, having finished his club season with Independiente del Valle and now spending a few weeks with us to start his acclimatization ahead of his future transfer 18 months from now. But Diong was a surprise, and a much more unknown quantity.
We didn’t have to wait too long for associated transfer rumors to pop up — see also Lucas Gourna-Douath being in the crowd over the weekend — but according to Fabrizio Romano, we are in fact “closing in” on a deal for his signature, which, like in Kendry’s case, won’t become official immediately. He is a year older than Kendry, so we only have to wait six months in his case.
EXCL: Chelsea are closing in on deal to sign Senegal U17 midfielder Pape Daouda Diong from AF Darou Salam! Deal almost done.— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 20, 2023
Pape was pictured at Stamford Bridge yesterday close to Kendry Páez
Born in 2006, Diong will be able to join in June 2024 when he will turn 18. pic.twitter.com/KWAxzu2vKI
Diong is currently playing for AF Darou Salam, which seems to be a football academy rather than an actual professional team in Senegal, but that’s not all that unusual. He’s been a regular for Senegal’s U17 national team, including at last month’s U17 World Cup, where they lost in the Round of 16 to France — with Diong missing a penalty in the shootout. (England also went out at that stage.) The youngster has made one senior international appearance already as well, coming off the bench late on against Rwanda in an AFCON qualifier in September.
Tall and lanky, the 17-year-old appears to be a defensive midfielder primarily, and obviously (another) one for the future. The number being thrown about is €20m, which is certainly not nothing, but also isn’t all that much anymore these days.