Newcastle United star Sandro Tonali is battling against an addiction to gambling as he faces a potential ban from football, according to the player’s agent. The midfielder only arrived at St James’ Park in the summer transfer window but the Italy international could be banned for over a year from playing after it emerged that he had been questioned by police in relation to a possible alleged breach of betting regulations in Italy.
The 23-year-old has been accused of betting on football matches during his time with AC Milan in the Serie A, with Nicolo Zaniolo – on loan at Aston Villa – and Juventus player Nicolo Fagioli also named as part of an investigation from Turin prosecutors.
Tonali has already met with the Italian Football Federation Prosecutor (FIGC) to discuss ‘denouncing’ himself, which would mean halving any potential ban from football. He is currently facing a ban of more than three years away from football if the case is proven against him and no plea bargain is agreed.
And the player’s agent, Giuseppe Riso, has decided to open up on the extent of Tonali’s problem, admitting the star has been left ‘shaken’ and ‘sad’ as he continues his battle against his gambling addiction.
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“Sandro is playing the most important game at the moment, the one against gambling addiction, and he will win this too,” Riso said, speaking at an Italian embassy event in London.
“He’s in a bit of shock right now, I hope this match saves Sandro’s life and sets an example for other kids too. He is certainly shaken and sad, he has understood that he must face this problem in a very determined way.”
When approached by Express Sport, Newcastle United declined to comment.
Despite being sent home from the Italian national team camp after police visited their Coverciano training base, Riso confirmed Tonali is available to play in Newcastle’s Premier League fixture against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
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“I thank Newcastle because they immediately showed great closeness,” he added. “They are training at the moment and [Tonali] could also play on Saturday.”
The Football Association, along with the Premier League, are keeping a close eye on developments but Tonali will be allowed to play while the investigation remains open.
His national team boss Luciano Spaletti, who was forced to make do without Tonali and Zaniolo after they left the national team camp, has insisted the pair will have their support after admitting they had left feeling ‘distraught’.
“It has been traumatic for the team because we had the authorities almost coming into the dressing room. Everyone was surprised. Everyone was upset,” the 64-year-old head coach said.
“Some of us were able to give them a hug before they went home. The players themselves were absolutely distraught because when you are part of a national team, very strong ties and bonds are created.
“I do think gambling is a form of temptation, it is a vice, and these things happen and can happen.
“But we are committed to keep speaking to these players, we will continue to keep our eye on them, and we will try to provide them with all of the help, information and support we can to make sure they can go back to doing what they enjoy doing most.”
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