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By ESPN Staff

Ransom demanded for Mikel's father

A "sizeable'' ransom has been demanded by the kidnappers of John Obi Mikel's father, the Chelsea midfielder's representatives confirmed on Thursday.

• Kidnappers contact Mikel family
• Mikel appeals for dad's safe return
• Mikel's father abducted in Nigeria

But the Sport Entertainment and Media Group (SEM) denied reports £80,000 was being sought for the release of Michael Obi, who was abducted in his native Nigeria last week.

SEM also confirmed Mikel had made himself available to for Chelsea's Premier League game with West Brom on Saturday, having also played in last weekend's season opener at Stoke after learning of his father's kidnapping.

SEM said in a statement today: "SEM advises that reports from Nigeria of an £80,000 ransom demand for the return of John Obi Mikel's father is not true.

"We confirm that Michael Obi has been abducted and that the kidnappers have been in touch with the family and representatives of the family and that discussions for Michael's safe release have begun.

"A sizeable demand has been made but, for security reasons, we are unable to release details of the amount.

"Mikel would like to thank his family, friends, Chelsea FC and his agents for their support and, at this time, it is Mikel's intention to play for Chelsea this weekend, encouraged by his family to do so.''

Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas was reluctant to discuss the kidnapping of Mikel's father in too much detail.

He said: "As you know, it's a very, very difficult situation, personal situation. I wouldn't like to extend myself because it's a very, very sensitive situation.

"Mikel, of course, made himself available for the game and we are counting on him. So he is available to be selected. If we decide, he will play.''

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