No-Go Sandro is hitting Toon hard

We need to talk about Tonali.

Newcastle United FC v Borussia Dortmund: Group F - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
Newcastle United FC v Borussia Dortmund: Group F - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages
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There is a gaping hole the size of the Italian midfielder on the pitch at St. James’s Park.

Banned since the 26 October for breaching betting regulations while at AC Milan, it’s no real surprise that the likes of Bruno Guimares and Joelinton have started to look like they’re running on empty in recent games without him.

Sandro Tonali will be out until August 2024 and while that has seen the door opened for youngster Lewis Miley to impress on stepping up into the squad, he has nothing like the experience of the 23-year-old former Serie A winner.

Tonali seemed to take a little time to settle on Tyneside but was looking increasingly influential in winning the ball back, breaking things up and moving things on in the middle of the park at the time his trouble with FIFA and the IFF began.

It’s not even entirely clear what Tonali has done – certainly he’s been gambling on games, but the easy way to get around that is to get one of your family members or close friends to put bets on for you. Who doesn’t like a daft six-fold on a few results?

Obviously, it’s an issue if you’re gambling on the outcome of games that you are playing in yourself but is it really that big a problem if you’re taking a punt on matches that you have no direct involvement in? The bookies are happy to take money in off anyone. They’re not so happy to pay out. Maybe that’s been the problem in Italy. Had Sandro been cleaning out the wrong bookmakers?

He’s certainly been unlucky to get caught. Footballers have long been known to like a flutter, be it on the horses, the game, or anything else. Former Toon winger Keith Gillespie estimated that he had lost around £7 million due to a gambling addiction while he was playing.

While injuries and the demands of European competition have undoubtedly played a part in Newcastle’s poor run of form at present, the Tonali ban has also been integral – and watching a bang average Nottingham Forest continually hit them on the break just reinforced how much he is missed.

When he does return next season, Tonali will be hungry, keen to impress and the boost to the squad could be like bringing in a new signing.

I’ll bet Newcastle would love to have him back tomorrow.