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Dan Ashworth, the sporting director of Newcastle, acknowledges that the inquiry into Sandro Tonali has been a rapid and unexpected development after the midfielder’s suspension from the sport.
Right before the Magpies’ match against Wolves on Saturday, the Italian coach received a 10-month suspension from the Italian Football Federation (FIGC). This was later confirmed by FIFA after he made a plea deal as part of an inquiry into illegal gambling.
Ashworth described how the investigation involving Tonali unfolded rapidly during the recent international break.
“It was an immense shock, a tremendous surprise. Coping with it was a new experience for all of us. It came out of nowhere,” he stated.
“We were initially made aware of the situation through a potential accusation on social media. I then communicated with his representatives and things progressed swiftly.”
Our initial priority was ensuring the safety and well-being of our player, as he is a valued member of our team. We aimed to gain a thorough understanding of the situation and cooperate openly with the proper authorities.
“Sandro’s intention was to do so from the beginning. It was quite chaotic. By Friday (prior to the Wolves game), we had reached a point where the ban had been approved and confirmed by the Italian federation, FIFA, and our own Football Association.”
Tonali, who was signed by Newcastle United from AC Milan for a transfer fee of £55 million, will be unable to participate in any competitive games until August 27, 2024 due to the ban. This will undoubtedly be a significant loss for the team, according to Ashworth.
Ashworth stated that they will definitely feel the absence of the player, as he is a valuable addition to the team. To put it into perspective, it could have been a torn ACL injury.
In football, unexpected events occur, but when they happen in this situation, it is not something that one anticipates. Personally, when it happened, I reflected on myself.
“What improvements could we have made? What could I have personally done differently? What can we take away from this experience? Was it possible for us to foresee this? Should we have been able to anticipate it? It’s important to review our processes.”
“I have been in this profession for 16 years and have never encountered a situation like this before. Our team takes great care in conducting thorough research and selecting the most suitable individuals.”
The group’s culture and cohesion are undeniably strong, which is not a coincidence.
“We devote a significant amount of time evaluating both the individual’s character and athletic abilities. We have reviewed our past actions and will continue to do so moving forward.”
Tonali was not only banned, but also fined 20,000 euros and ordered to undergo eight months of therapy. He will also have to make public appearances, as confirmed by manager Eddie Howe. At 23 years old, Tonali is currently in training.
During his press conference on Friday, Howe mentioned that Tonali is currently training with the team, although most of his sessions will be individual or in small groups due to the busy game schedule.
“He has begun the 10-month journey, which will be a significant mental challenge for him as he strives to improve and become a better player. As coaches, our goal is to support and assist him in achieving this.”
“It will definitely be challenging for him.”
Ashworth expressed similar thoughts to Howe, stating that their top priority is to take care of and provide support for him. He acknowledged that the situation may be tougher for him than for anyone else.
We have implemented a program to assist him and we are grateful that he is able to practice with the team, which is beneficial for his emotional health.
“We are creating a plan outlining his limitations and possibilities for the next few months in order to resume flying by August.”
The source for this information is the Independent, a UK-based news publication.