The 23-year-old is set to be ruled out until August although there is an outside possibility he could be available this weekend as Fifa is yet to widen the ban worldwide.
Internal club discussions have already begun with lawyers, however, over whether Tonali will remain one of the team’s top earners while he is sidelined. Sources close to the club have played down reports in Italy that Newcastle could sue his former club AC Milan for failing to declare Tonali’s gambling issues.
But executives are keeping options open over their next move, with the player’s welfare being prioritised as he tackles addictions outlined by his agent. Eddie Howe has praised Tonali’s response after a “difficult couple of weeks”, and gambling charities also said on Thursday that Tonali deserves “empathy and support”.
A judgment from the Italian Football Federation means Tonali, who arrived from AC Milan for £55 million in July, will also be unavailable for Euro 2024 should his nation qualify. However, unlike the Football Association’s ban terms against Ivan Toney, Tonali is expected to be allowed to continue club training and behind-closed-doors games throughout.
Lawyers acknowledged on Thursday that Newcastle face a complex task in deciding how to respond to the ban against Tonali, who has made 12 appearances for Howe’s side. Stephen Taylor Heath, co-head of sports law at JMW Solicitors, said the “starting point” for the club’s lawyers will be in scrutinising the agreement between the two clubs during the deal this summer.
“There is currently no public knowledge on the agreement in this particular case, but a transfer normally contains a basic structure which includes warranties from the selling club,” he explained. “These warranties could include representations that the selling team is not aware that the player is subject to any investigations of a criminal or disciplinary nature at the time of a transaction. If Newcastle United did believe they had a case and were to take any form of action, the transfer agreement may provide a jurisdiction and forum for the dispute to be determined.”
The Premier League’s standard contract also contains “certain obligations of a player, including the need to abide by the applicable rules and not to bring a club into disrepute”, he added.
“The contract will specify the action a team can take in such circumstances, although it may be that the club and player would agree a way forward in order to enable the athlete to comply with the terms of an arrangement with the ruling governing body – in this case the FIGC – thereby facilitating a reduced ban,” he said.
Tonali and fellow midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo, who is on loan at Aston Villa from Galatasaray, left Italy’s training camp on Oct 12 after being told they were involved in an investigation by Italian prosecutors.
Italian Football Federation president Gabriele Gravina told Sky Sports Italia: “An agreement has been reached between the federal prosecutor and Sandro Tonali. The plea agreement is for 18 months, of which eight months is for rehabilitation, which involves therapeutic activity and making at least 16 public appearances. The rules call for a certain number of years of suspension, but the plea bargain and extenuating circumstances have been taken into consideration and the players’ collaboration went above and beyond, therefore we must continue to respect the rules we have established for ourselves.”
Newcastle face Wolves on Saturday and it is likely but not certain that Fifa will have widened the ban facing Tonali by then. Howe has previously said of Tonali: “He’s been dealing with a lot and, from what I can see, from a few hours a day, he’s handling himself really well and is dealing with emotions incredibly strongly.”
Alan Shearer told BBC Radio 5 Live that the “Newcastle public have shown great support” to the Italian. The player’s agent, Giuseppe Riso, had said last week that his client is living with a gambling addiction. The PFA is understood to be working with and continuing to support Tonali.
“Footballers are human and if they are suffering from addiction they deserve empathy and support, not lengthy bans,” the Big Step campaign, part of the Gambling with Lives group, added on Thursday. “Every football game is wall-to-wall with gambling ads, not just across shirts but around stadiums and related media content. Sending someone addicted to gambling into this environment is like sending an alcoholic to work in a pub. If you force young footballers to endorse addictive products then don’t be surprised if they use them.”
Tonali was one of several players named in the FIGC’s investigation, which also saw Juventus midfielder Nicolo Fagioli banned for seven months.