Newcastle United's big summer signing Sandro Tonali looks set for lengthy ban from playing with the Italy midfielder under investigation for breaching gambling rules.
Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo – currently on loan at Newcastle's Premier League rivals Aston Villa – were both sent home from the national team's latest training camp after being told they were involved in an investigation by Italian prosecutors.
On Tuesday, Juventus midfielder Nicolo Fagioli was given a seven-month suspension by the Italian football federation (FIGC) on Tuesday for breaching betting rules, fined €12,500 and agreed to undergo therapy for gambling addiction.
And now Newcastle have confirmed that Tonali, who joined the club from Serie A side AC Milan in a deal worth around £60 million, is co-operating with the FIGC investigation into illegal betting activity.
“Sandro is fully engaging with the investigation and will continue to co-operate with all relevant authorities,” Newcastle said in a statement. “He and his family will continue to receive the club's full support.
“Due to this ongoing process, Sandro and Newcastle United are unable to offer further comment at this time.”
It has been reported in Italy that the 23-year-old admitted in a hearing to betting on matches involving his former club Milan and could also face a worldwide football ban if found guilty.
Any lengthy suspension would be a huge blow to Newcastle's plans for the season; in the next two weeks alone they face crucial matches in the Premier League, Champions League and League Cup.
Newcastle are back in domestic action this weekend following the international break, taking on Crystal Palace at St James' Park on Saturday, then Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday night, followed by Wolves away and Manchester United at Old Trafford in the League Cup fourth round.
And while Tonali has been training with the first team, it will be down to manager Eddie Howe to decide whether the player is in the right frame of mind to start matches while the investigation is ongoing. Howe will be facing the media on Friday ahead of the Palace game.
Tonali's agent Giuseppe Riso has admitted that his client is struggling with a gambling problem and praised Newcastle for their support so far.
“Sandro suffers of gambling addiction,” Riso told Sport Italia at an Italian Embassy event in London. “He’s fighting to avoid that and I’m sure he will win this difficult game.”
“He’s sad, still in shock. I’d like to thank Newcastle as they’re supporting Sandro. He’s training, he could feature on Saturday.
“I hope this gambling addiction issue will help to save Sandro’s life as well as many other young guys affected by same problem.
“Sandro understood that he has to focus on this issue and face gambling addiction with strong, determined approach.”
Tonali made 130 appearances for AC Milan, scoring seven goals, before moving to Tyneside in July and has won 15 caps for Italy.
He started the season by scoring on his debut as the Magpies thrashed Aston Villa 5-1 on the opening weekend of the campaign and also played a key role in Newcastle's 4-1 demolition of Kylian Mbappe's Paris Saint-Germain in what was the club's first Champions League home game in 20 years.