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Rio Cardines signs first professional contract with Crystal Palace

[Credit: CPFC]

Young wing-back Rio Cardines has signed his first professional contract with South London club Crystal Palace.

Rio Cardines initially signed for Crystal Palace in 2022 as a 16-year-old and has played with the U18s team for the past two seasons. He has made 41 appearances for the U18s side over the past two seasons, chipping in with three goals and three assists in the U18 Premier League.

Cardines has mostly played at both left and right wing-back but he has also played further forward. Arguably his best skill is his crossing ability with one Crystal Palace commentator referring to him as the best crosser of the ball in the entire U18s.

Cardines has also featured for the Trinidad & Tobago youth setup. He performed well during the Soca Warriors U20 CONCACAF Championship qualification games in February, scoring a goal and providing three assists for his teammates. Should he make it to the first team he would become the first Trinidadian to play in the Premier League since Kenwyne Jones who made his last appearance in 2014.

Cardines made his competitive debut at the U21 level for Crystal Palace towards the end of the 2023/24 season, making two appearances in the PL2 and one appearance in the Premier League Cup. He had previously played with the U21s in the MLS NEXT PRO Invitational where Palace lost two and drew one game.

Speaking to Crystal Palace TV Cardines said:

“It’s a great feeling to sign my first professional contract. I’m really happy, proud of myself, it’s been a long journey.”

An injury brought his season to a premature end but The Eagles had seen enough of the youngster to ensure he stays at the club for the near future and put him on a pathway to the first team.

Like any youngster, Cardines wants to progress to the first team as soon as he can. He said: “I hope I can move up to the first team as quick as I can and in the meantime get minutes with the U21s and play as much football as possible.”

Crystal Palace have a strong youth setup and performed well in the PL2 last season finishing 9th before losing to Liverpool in a 3-2 thriller in the elimination playoffs. Cardines will be behind Tyrick Mitchell, Jeffrey Schlupp, Nathaniel Clyne, and Daniel Munoz in the pecking order at Crystal Palace but his versatility should serve him well if he receives a call-up to the first-team.

Minutes in the first-team have been tricky to come by for Palace Youngsters but the arrival of Oliver Glasner could change that as Roy Hodgson was often criticised for failing to use young players.

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