NEWCASTLE, England (AP) – Newcastle said it is “in limbo” over the status of Sandro Tonali.
The midfielder was banned for 10 months by the Italian football federation for betting violations, but Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said Friday that Tonali could still play this weekend.
“There’s a high chance again that he could be available for us,” Howe said ahead of Saturday’s game at Wolverhampton. “I still think there’s a few things that have to happen before the ban is imposed.”
The Italian federation said on Thursday that Tonali was given a ban that seemingly would rule him out of the rest of the Premier League season as well as next year’s European Championship should Italy qualify.
“We haven’t had official confirmation as a football club yet,” Howe said. “We’ve heard the news, sort of the speculation statement, but we haven’t had anything from the Italian authorities at the moment, so we’re sort of in limbo really, waiting for that official confirmation to come through.”
The 23-year-old Tonali, who became the second player suspended in the widening case, agreed to a plea bargain with the federation that included therapy for a gambling addiction.
It’s also unclear if Tonali will be able to train with Newcastle during the ban.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to but again we’re waiting confirmation of that – we don’t know,” Howe said.
Tonali has come on as a substitute in the past two games. He was as a 65th-minute replacement in the 1-0 loss at home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.
“He came on and did really well,” Howe said. “His training performances have been very good. His mood is the same, he’s good around the group, he’s good around the training ground.”
Newcastle paid a reported EUR65 million (USD69 million) to AC Milan for the promising midfielder, who signed a five-year contract with the English club.
Tonali’s agent, Giuseppe Riso, recently acknowledged that his client has a gambling problem and that Tonali told prosecutors he bet on AC Milan and Brescia when he played for those clubs.
The federation acted following an investigation by Turin prosecutors into football players using illegal websites to bet on games.
Tonali’s cooperation with authorities allowed the minimum ban of three years for players betting on football matches to be greatly reduced.
Italian football federation President Gabriele Gravina said Tonali was suspended for 18 months but that eight of those months were commutable by attending treatment for gambling addiction and making at least 16 public appearances at centers for young football players and associations for recovering addicts.
Last week, Juventus midfielder Nicolò Fagioli was banned for seven months after agreeing to a plea bargain with the federation that also stipulates he undergoes therapy for a gambling addiction.
Unlike Fagioli, Tonali admitted he bet on his team’s games when he played for Milan, but always for them to win so there was no suggestion of match-fixing.