Sandro Tonali was named on Newcastle’s bench for their Champions League tie with Borussia Dortmund before coming on after 65 minutes – just a day before he is expected to be banned from football for 10 months.
The Magpies hosted the German side at St James’ Park hoping to keep up their unbeaten return to Europe’s elite club competition following a 0-0 draw with AC Milan and a memorable 4-1 victory against PSG.
Earlier this month, Tonali was named in an investigation by the Italian Prosecutor’s Office and Italian Football Federation (FIGC) into allegations of illegal gambling, with Newcastle confirming the probe into the midfielder was underway last week.
Tonali – who moved to the Magpies for £52million in the summer – was one of three players originally named alongside Aston Villa‘s Nicolo Zaniolo and Nicolo Fagioli of Juventus and reportedly admitted to betting on matches involving his former club AC Milan.
Mail Sport reported earlier on Wednesday how Italian authorities were ready to confirm Tonali’s ban for illegal betting, with the midfielder set to miss the next 10 months.
Sandro Tonali was named on the bench for Newcastle’s Champions League tie with Borussia Dortmund – just a day before he is expected to be banned from football for 10 months
Tonali was introduced after 65 mintues as he came on to replace Sean Longstaff in midfield
An agreement has been reached for Tonali to serve a 10-month ban due to illegal betting
Given the ban is expected to be confirmed tomorrow, he was available to Eddie Howe tonight
The player’s lawyers have been negotiating with prosecutors and the FIGC and an agreement is believed to be extremely close.
However, it did not arrive officially before the tie with Dortmund, meaning Tonali was available to Eddie Howe, who picked him among his substitutes. Any suspension is only effective from the following day.
It is thought UEFA did not want Tonali – whose agent said he was a gambling addict – to feature but were powerless without confirmation of the ban from Italy.
Subsequently, Tonali replaced Sean Longstaff after 65 minutes with Newcastle 1-0 down courtesy of Felix Nmecha’s first half strike.
However, he couldn’t help to inspire a comeback as they suffered the first defeat of their Champions League campaign this season.
Crucially, for Tonali and Newcastle, he is expected to be free to train with the team during his suspension, which is set to run until late August of next year. He will miss Euro 2024 and the early weeks of the Premier League season.
Newcastle are yet to comment on reports in Italy of a clause that exists in the 23-year-old’s contract which means they do not have to pay him during the ban.
However, the club are assessing all legal options and their lawyers will be exploring if they have a case for compensation, given they paid Milan £52million for a player who had already committed betting offences, including gambling on his own teams to win matches.
Tonali’s suspension is also set to include eight months of therapy and his participation in anti-gambling initiatives.
With regards to the wider investigation Zaniolo, Tonali, and Fagioli had their electronics confiscated almost two weeks ago which also saw the Italian national team’s training camp raided by the authorities as they sought to interview Zaniolo and Tonali.
Italy head coach Luciano Spalletti called the raid ‘traumatic’ and described his players as ‘absolutely distraught’ by the investigation.
Reports in Italy stated that after meeting with prosecutors over alleged sporting offences, Tonali is then thought to have spoken to criminal prosecutor Manuela Pedrotta, who is spearheading an investigation into a betting ring on illegal online platforms.
Tonali is believed to have cooperated fully with the parallel investigation.
Fagioli became the first player to speak directly to prosecutors after news broke two weeks ago, and the 22-year-old was subsequently handed a seven-month ban from football.
Tonali is expected to be able to train with Newcastle throughout the duration of his suspension
Nicolo Fagioli (left) and Nicolo Zaniolo were also named in the investigation by Italian authorities. Fagioli received a seven-month ban after admitting guilt and a gambling addiction
The player’s ban is a significant reduction from the usual minimum sanction of three years after he admitted his guilt and confessed to a gambling addiction.
Italian laws around betting ban athletes from placing bets on the sports in which they compete.
Zaniolo, who joined Aston Villa on loan from Galatasaray during the summer’s transfer window, is not thought to be seeking a plea bargain, and will instead be looking for a full acquittal.
The former Roma player is said to be adamant that he only placed bets on online poker and blackjack games – which is not in contravention of the Sports Justice Code.