Sandro Tonali is officially a Newcastle United player. The Italy U21 captain has joined from Milan for a fee of £52 million plus future add-ons on an initial five-year contract. He will likely wear the number 20 shirt and will reportedly be paid a basic wage of around £115,000 per week, plus bonuses, making him one of the club's top earners.
After signing his contract, Tonali gave his first quotes to NUFC.co.uk: "First of all, I want to thank Newcastle United because they are giving me a huge opportunity for my career.
"I want to repay the trust on the pitch, giving it my all, as I always have. I'm really excited about playing at St. James' Park, I can't wait to feel the warmth of the fans."
And Eddie Howe also commented on his new midfield maestro: "I'm delighted to welcome Sandro to Newcastle United.
"He is an exceptional talent and has the mentality, physicality and technical attributes to be a great fit for us.
"At 23, Sandro already has important experience as a key player in one of Europe's top leagues and in the Champions League, as well as playing for his country.
"But he also has the opportunity and potential to grow and evolve with us, and I’m excited to add him to our squad as we approach the exciting season ahead."
The first mention of Newcastle's interest in Tonali came from Simon Jones of the Daily Mail in a roundup article posted on Monday, 12th June 2023, but an official bid of "around £43 million" was not reported until Tuesday, 20th June. James Horncastle of The Athletic was first to reveal this, with his article coming out late that evening.
Things progressed quickly thereafter, with Horncastle partnering with his Athletic colleague David Ornstein the following day to write that an agreement between Milan and Newcastle was "close", with the total fee being in the region of £60 million.
Fabrizio Romano gave the deal the "here we go" treatment a couple of days later on Friday, 23rd June, corroborating Horncastle/Ornstein's reporting of the £60 million total fee. He also revealed that Tonali's annual salary would be £6 million (£115,000 per week), with a further £1.3 million in potential bonuses.
Tonali's agent Giuseppe Riso also confirmed reports of Newcastle and Milan haggling over the precise payment terms of the deal on Friday, 23rd June, having returned from Romania where Tonali had completed the first part of his Newcastle medical.
The delay thereafter was largely due to Tonali's involvement in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Romania/Georgia. Things picked up following Italy U21s' 0-0 draw with Norway U21s, which eliminated Tonali's side from the competition.
Multiple media sources reported that Tonali was due on Tyneside by Monday, 3rd July to complete his signing. This date was later pushed back to Wednesday, 5th July, though the club still confirmed him as having officially signed on the 3rd.
Although early dispatches described Tonali as a deep-lying midfielder/"number six", it seems as though he could have a more attacking role in Eddie Howe's side.
The excellent Kev Lawson of StatsBomb put out this in-depth thread on Tonali on Saturday, 24th June:
A lot of this had been covered by the equally excellent Sanjay a day earlier in another deep-dive thread with a lot more video:
Both seem to agree that he's most likely to play as the right-sided number eight, probably taking Longstaff's place in the team. And that he could also interchange with Bruno as our deepest-lying midfielder, as Longstaff occasionally does already. Jacob Whitehead and Thom Harris of The Athletic also concur, though do think there would be merit in playing him on the left, too.
Depending on what our remaining business looks like, he could even form a deeper-lying pair with Bruno should we switch to the 4-2-3-1 we used at times last season more regularly in the new campaign. This is where he has played for Milan under Stefano Pioli and is a system in which the Rossoneri won the Scudetto in 2021/22.
Tonali is comfortable off either foot and models his game on Gennaro Gattuso, while his former youth coach Davido Gatti has mentioned more than once how he reminds him of Daniele De Rossi.
If you're a FIFA Ultimate Team player, you'll be pleased to hear that Sandro Tonali's base card is rare and has an 84 rating. This should make him our highest-rated player in EA Sports FC, the next version of the game.
His current base card has the "controlled" chemistry style, and he is right-footed with 3* skill moves and 4* weak foot ability. His base statistics are 81 for pace, 73 for shooting, 81 for passing, 79 for dribbling, 79 for defending, and 82 for physical. His default position is CDM, with his alternate position being CM, and he has a medium attacking work rate and a high defensive work rate.
Tonali got a Winter Wildcard upgrade in FIFA 23, which boosted his overall rating to 87. This was later followed by a Serie A Team of the Season card with a rating of 92. You can see his card's progression throughout FIFA 23's Ultimate Team campaign here:
If you're a career mode player, Tonali has an 84 overall rating and 87 potential. He's statistically most similar to N'golo Kanté on the game and is most effective when deployed as LDM/CDM/RDM.
See for yourself...
At his very best as a ball-winning midfielder with a "defend" duty, Tonali is almost as effective when played with a "support" duty as either a ball-winning midfielder or central midfielder. He could also be used as a deep-lying playmaker without much dropoff in performance.
Tonali is likely to start between £5.5m and 6.0m at the beginning of the 2023/24 Premier League season. If he takes over the majority of set-piece duties from Kieran Trippier and is played more advanced as a number eight rather than as a deep-lying number six, he may prove to be a shrewd acquisition in the early part of the season.
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