Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has praised the professionalism of Super Eagles midfielder John Obi Mikel for keeping up his performance when needed despite losing his spot in the team.
Mourinho named Mikel as one of the outstanding players in the Blues 1-0 victory over hosts Sydney FC in their post-season friendly in Australia on Tuesday.
Mikel, who did not enjoy enough first-team appearance with the London club in their last season’s campaign, played in the entire duration of the game, but teenage defender Temitayo Aina was on the bench throughout.
Loic Remy gave the visitors the only goal of the game via a left-footed strike at the ANZ Stadium, but Mourinho never underplayed the role of Mikel in the encounter.
“I’m happy with the performance of my senior players because it’s been a long season, in fact very long,” Mourinho said on Chelsea’s website.
“There were some performances from people like Ivanovic, Terry and Mikel where they tried to play football and the result could have been completely different.
“In the last part of the game the younger boys couldn’t cope with the competitiveness of the Sydney players, they felt they had a chance and they pushed a little bit in the last period.”
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the teenage midfielder who recently joined the senior team, was tongue-lashed by the Portuguese.
“Ruben said he had a pain in his back, but I think he was more impressed by watching Matic and Mikel work, instead of him working,” Mourinho said.
“He has to learn that at 19 you have to run three times more than the others, you have to play to your limits and not play like a superstar with the ball at your feet because this is not Under-18s.”
Mikel had earlier expressed his pleasure at seeing some 10,000 supporters turn out to watch their training in Sydney.