The Football Association is investigating whether Sandro Tonali breached betting rules after he joined Newcastle United. The 23-year-old Italy midfielder, who moved to the Magpies from AC Milan for £55m over the summer, has been suspended for 10 months by the Italian Football Federation.
Tonali was alleged to have placed bets on games involving former clubs Brescia and Milan during his spells with them.
The ban was subsequently ratified by Fifa after Tonali agreed a plea bargain as part of an investigation into illegal betting activity.
It is understood the FA is now investigating whether he was involved in gambling on football following his move to England.
Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth admits the probe into Tonali has been “a whirlwind” and a “massive shock”.
Tonali found himself at the centre of the probe during last month’s international break.
“It was a massive shock, a massive surprise. Dealing with it was new to all of us. It came from nowhere,” said Ashworth.
“We first became aware of it when was there a potential allegation on social media. I spoke with his representatives and it just happened really quickly.
“Our first thought was to protect our player, he is part of our family, and to give him the help and support he needed. We wanted to understand exactly what had happened and work transparently with the authorities.
“Sandro wanted to do that from the off as well. It was a bit of a whirlwind really. We got to where we were on Friday where the ban had been signed off and agreed with the Italian federation, FIFA and our own Football Association.”
The ban means Tonali will not be eligible to return to competitive action until August 27, 2024 and Ashworth knows he will be a big miss to the squad.
“Like any player we will miss him of course, he is a top player and a big signing. To contextualise it, it could have been an ACL,” Ashworth said.
“These things happen in football, but obviously when it happens in this context it’s not something you expect. For me, from the minute it happened, you look at yourself.
“What could we have done better? What could I have done better? What are the lessons learned from this? Could we have known? Should we have known? You look at your processes.
“I’ve been doing this for 16 years and nothing like this has happened before. We pride ourselves on due diligence and getting the right characters.
“You have all seen the culture and cohesion in the group is extremely strong, and that’s not by chance.
“We spend an immense amount of time looking at the character as well as the athlete. We have and will continue to review what we have done in the past and will do going forward.”
In addition to his ban, Tonali was fined 20,000 euros and will undergo eight months of therapy as well as carrying out a series of public appearances.
Meanwhile, manager Eddie Howe confirmed the player is still training with the club.
In his Friday press conference, Howe said: “He is training with us and he’s started that lonely journey – I say lonely, he’s around his team-mates but we’re playing so many games at the moment that a lot of his sessions will be individual or small numbers.
“He’s started that journey into the 10 months so it’s going to be a real mental test for him to try and come through that period and become a better player, which is definitely our objective as coaches to try and help him.
“It’s going to be difficult for him for sure.”
Ashworth echoed Howe’s sentiments, adding: “Our first port of call is to look after and support him. It’s probably more difficult for him than anyone else.
“We have a programme to support him and thankfully he’s able to train with the team, which is great for his mental well-being. We’re putting together a programme of what he can and can’t do over the coming months to get him back flying in August.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies