Newcastle’s Sandro Tonali took pay cut after gambling ban ‘guilt’

Newcastle United's Sandro Tonali in the stands

Sandro Tonali volunteered to take a significant pay cut following his 10-month ban for breaking gambling rules in Italy because of the “guilt” he felt after joining Newcastle United last summer.

Tonali has only played eight games for Newcastle following his £58million move from AC Milan because of the ban and his manager Eddie Howe has revealed the extent to which the Italy international has tried to make amends. The 23-year-old will be able to play again at the end of August after the Football Association only punished him for also gambling on games during his time in the Premier League with a two month suspended sentence and a £20,000 fine.

The Football Association issued the suspended ban due to his extensive cooperation with inquiries. Tonali volunteered that he had placed “40 to 50 football bets since being at NUFC, between 12 August 2023 to early October 2023”. They included four bets on his new Newcastle side to win, including an accumulator against either Brighton or Burnley, other accumulators against Brentford and West Ham and a single bet on beating Manchester City.

And Howe, as he has done since the news of Tonali’s gambling addiction broke back in the autumn, has again tried to protect the midfielder from external criticism.

“It’s the right decision, I think, the FA have arrived at,” said Howe, whose side travel to Burnley this weekend needing a win to remain on course for a top-six finish and qualification for Europe. “That the ban isn’t extended. Sandro’s currently working hard behind the scenes, he’s trained very well.

“But as always – as I’ve said many times referring to this situation – we’re still supporting him and helping him as he serves this time.

“It [the paycut] was something he wanted to do. He felt the guilt and he felt that joining a new club, that was something he wanted to show the club in good faith that he was sorry and he was determined to put it behind him and try to learn from it, so all really good signs,

“I think, for the future for us, that we’ve got a very good human being in the football club and someone that’s keen now to, as a I say, put it behind him and try to show all the good that he can do for Newcastle United.”

Newcastle's Sandro Tonali took pay cut after gambling ban 'guilt'
Eddie Howe has staunchly defended Sandro Tonali - Getty Images/Stu Forster

Given Tonali was the only signing made last summer who would instantly improve the first team, his absence has been acutely felt during an injury-plagued campaign.

Indeed, although winger Miguel Almiron and midfielder Joelinton both returned to training this week, the loss of centre back Fabian Schar to a hamstring injury for the rest of the season means Howe has only one specialist centre back fit, Dan Burn, for the remaining four games.

And Howe admitted there have been times when he has been desperate to put Tonali in his side, with the caveat that when he is back in action next season, it will feel like a new signing.

“Without a doubt. It will be a huge thing for us,” Howe said. “We’ve had him in our training numbers all year and there are times when you’re looking at what you can do with the team and where you can take the team and you accidentally put him in the team and you go ‘oh no I can’t!’.

“It’s been a huge frustration to have a top quality player that you can’t use. I know what he can do and the difference he’ll have made this year but it wasn’t to be.

“But I think for us, and for him, from this situation good comes of it, that he’s able to learn and develop to the English style and ultimately could be something that he looks back on in a few years time and goes ‘actually you know what that helped me settle into England’. [We have missed] his technical ability, his ability to play different positions in a season where you’re stretched by injuries.

“Any player that is versatile is hugely important. He would have been a big, big player for us. He would have driven us to get some key results. The players have felt his loss as well. That has been a negative for the players to see him train and then not be able to play.”

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