Mon 11 Dec 2023, 17:59 by NUFC News

'A huge shame': Milan fan gives us his verdict on Tonali ahead of Wednesday's clash in our Q&A

'A huge shame': Milan fan gives us his verdict on Tonali ahead of Wednesday's clash in our Q&A
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Eddie Howe's embattled Newcastle host AC Milan on Wednesday night in a do-or-die Champions League fixture.

Defeat would see Newcastle crash out of Europe entirely, while the fixture between Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain holds too much significance for comfort.

We caught up Oli from SempreMilan ahead of the game to find out how Milan fans are looking at this one.

What did you think about Sandro Tonali choosing to leave Milan, and what are your thoughts about his subsequent ban?

A lot of fans and journalists have tried to turn the Tonali narrative into quite a complex issue, when I think the reality of it was simple. Every player in football has a price, even those who are fans of the club they play for, and a cash-rich club like Newcastle were willing to meet Milan's price.

Of course there is the aspect of convincing the player to join, but Newcastle have an ambitious project and the added bonus of being able to double or even triple Tonali's salary, while any doubts on his part will likely have dissolved when he discovered the club were happy to accept the fee.

The feeling among many is that it's not a case of goodbye forever to Tonali and more a case of 'see you again soon', as the midfielder himself admitted, but for the present moment I can see how the move made sense for all parties.

As for the ban, I don't feel too comfortable speculating about the extent of his issues nor about who knew what, but Milan have made it very clear they knew nothing about it and the lack of action from Newcastle suggests an acceptance of that fact. For Tonali it's a huge shame - he was young and impressionable, and now misses out on doing the thing he loves for a long period.

What was your overall impression of Newcastle United before the game in September? Did it change after?

When the groups were drawn I actually thought PSG and Newcastle would be the top two. I like the squad that has been assembled by the Magpies and the evolution of Eddie Howe as a coach has been fun to watch as a neutral.

However, I think that underwhelming would be a fair word to describe things. Milan were dominant and outplayed Newcastle in that first group game and really should have won, then after the 4-1 win over PSG I presumed you would surge.

The back-to-back defeats against Dortmund seem to have killed that momentum and believe me, we know what it is like to have the life sucked out of a raucous home atmosphere by BVB. For all teams to have a chance to go through in the final two games means it has been a pretty tight group though, in truth.

Since then I've caught a few Newcastle games and they seem very similar to Milan in many ways, in the sense that they have a high ceiling but a low floor. They hammered PSG but then getting hammered by Everton and Spurs shows that, and also like that you've had a lot of injuries so there are parallels.

If you could have one NUFC player in the Milan team, who would it be and why?

Bruno Guimarães. He is utter quality and we are in desperate need of a player in his role. One of the top 10 best midfielders in the world in my opinion.
Rafael Leao
Getty Images
"Rafael Leão is the best winger in the league on his day."

How do you feel about Stefano Pioli and the Milan ownership?

The spectrum of opinion regarding Pioli among the Milan fan base ranges from the extreme (sack him now) to the more reasoned, but even the more reasons supporters - of which I would consider myself one - believe that the time has come for a change.

There can be no taking away from what he has achieved. He took over during a very difficult moment on and off the field, took Milan back to Europe, then to the Champions League, won a league title in 2021-22 and reached the UCL semis last season.

The wheels have fallen off a bit and the injury crises have remained a constant. Losing five games in a row to Inter is something that most rightly believe should spell curtains, yet there has to be an element of realism about where our project is.

Without going too deep into things, Milan fans should be thankful for the journey under Pioli but come the summer (at the latest) it will be time for fresh ideas. Zlatan Ibrahimovic also played a role in the revival from the start of 2020 onwards, and he is back too.

Are the stars in your team as good as people say they are?

In my opinion, yes. Mike Maignan is a top five goalkeeper in the world, Theo Hernandez is one of the few elite full-backs, Fikayo Tomori has been resurgent after a difficult season last year (I wrote a feature about his importance) while Rafael Leão is the best winger in the league on his day.

The issue is that having them all fit and firing at the same time has been a rarity over the past couple of seasons, and I also think it is plausible that some of the big names need a bit of stimulus. We saw that last season when the run to the Champions League semis combined with dire league form against teams Milan should be hammering.

There has been an absence of leadership in this team at times and there are certain players who need to step up, however, the quality of the players mentioned has been there for all to see for a while now.

Finally, what is your score prediction and ideal scenario for the outcome of the group?

The ideal outcome is a Milan win and a Dortmund win, of course! That being said, I'm not a big believer in miracles and I see a home win as the most likely outcome on Wednesday. Milan are a physically and mentally drained team at the moment, Newcastle will be well up for it, there will be a cauldron of noise and we only have one fit centre-back.
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