Sandro Tonali and Newcastle are braced for the Italy midfielder to receive a 10-month ban, with a further eight months suspended, for breaches of Italian betting regulations.
This would mean Tonali will be unavailable for selection for Eddie Howe’s team until late August next year and will miss the European Championship in Germany next summer should Italy qualify.
Howe says Tonali is in ‘pain and distress’ and vows to stand by him Read more
Although nothing has been confirmed, the 23-year-old’s lawyers have held a series of meetings with federal prosecutors in Italy and were understood to be finalising a plea bargain on Wednesday. Although the player’s alleged offences – namely the use of illegal gambling websites and the placing of bets on his former team, Milan – carry a mandatory three-year ban, that term can be reduced by admission of guilt, cooperation with investigators and a willingness to engage in counselling.
With Tonali believed to have been extremely cooperative and his agent having explained he is a “gambling addict” seeking therapy to address the problems, a plea bargain was possible and the final “verdict” is expected to arrive on Thursday.
That left Tonali free to be part of Howe’s squad as Newcastle faced Borussia Dortmund in a Champions League Group F game at St James’ Park on Wednesday night. It almost certainly proved his final appearance of this season.
Uefa is understood to have urged all parties concerned to resolve the case before the Dortmund game, thereby guaranteeing Tonali could not become a potential sideshow but that proved impossible.
It is thought the former Italy Under-21 captain will be obliged to attend regular gambling counselling sessions for the full 18-month period but is likely to be allowed to train with Newcastle for at least some part of the initial 10-month ban.
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Given that Tonali cost Newcastle £55m this summer, there have been reports in Italy that the Premier League club will take legal action against Milan but the feasibility of such a course of action appears opaque. While Newcastle are not commenting on that possibility, Milan say they have heard nothing from St James’ Park officials and maintain they had no knowledge of Tonali’s gambling habit, let alone embroilment in a major police investigation into illegal betting at the time of the sale.