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Aug 20, 2011

Villas-Boas hails Mikel's strength

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has praised the mental toughness of midfielder John Obi Mikel in the wake of his father's kidnapping.

Terry praises Villas-Boas

• Mikel receives ransom demand
• Kidnappers contact Mikel family
• Mikel appeals for father's return

For the second week running, Mikel has decided to continue playing, despite the trauma of knowing Michael Obi is being held captive in his family's native Nigeria. Mikel's representatives yesterday confirmed a "sizeable" ransom had been demanded for the release of the midfielder's father, who was abducted last week.

Villas-Boas broke the news of the kidnapping to Mikel on Saturday, 24 hours before Chelsea's opening Premier League fixture of the season at Stoke.

The 24-year-old insisted he wanted to play and almost capped a fine display with his first goal in English football. Villas-Boas said Mikel, who has also put his hand up for tomorrow's clash with West Brom, had demonstrated "amazing mental toughness".

He added: "I just have to go with the word my player gives to me and for the game against Stoke, Mikel felt well to play.

"People go through big disappointments and personal things in their lives and they can still be able to play because they feel well on the pitch, to avoid the things that are running in their personal lives and they can focus on on different things.

"Mikel made himself available for training and selection so I will just judge it like that.

"Players react in different ways. Some players want straight away to go back to their families, others prefer to be like this and live on day by day, not because they think they are distanced from where it is happening, but it's their choice."

Villas-Boas explained it had been "difficult" breaking the news to the midfielder, but would not be drawn on further discussions between the pair.

"I wouldn't like to go into it - it's a pretty sensitive situation and pretty traumatic," he said. "Hopefully, he can get this thing solved as soon as possible that's what we hope for."

Mikel's desire to play has avoided a possible midfield headache for Villas-Boas, who has acknowledged Chelsea are light in that area.

The club have already seen two bids rejected for Tottenham's Luka Modric, while reports in Spain claim Valencia have accepted an offer in the region of £27 million for Juan Mata. AS have led Saturday's internet edition of their newspaper with the headline "Mata will play for Chelsea", while Marca added "Mata's departure is imminent. The club will accept an offer of between 27 and 28 million euros which will allow him to play in the Premier League."

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