Newcastle United midfielder Sandro Tonali is suffering from a gambling addiction, his agent has confirmed.
Tonali, who arrived at St James’ Park for north of £50m over the summer, and Aston Villa’s Nicolo Zaniolo were sent home from Italy’s national team camp last Thursday after being questioned by police in relation to an investigation into illegal betting.
Juventus’ Nicolo Fagioli was also spoken to by Turin-based prosecutors – he has subsequently been banned for seven months and fined €12,500 after admitting his guilt and accepting a plea bargain.
The situation regarding Tonali and Zaniolo is unresolved at this stage, but sources have told 90min that any potential betting offences don’t appear to be related to football.
Speaking at an event at the Italian Embassy in London, Tonali’s agent, Giuseppe Riso, admitted that the 23-year-old has an addiction to gambling, but is grateful for the support he’s receiving from the Italian federation.
“We are very happy about Gravina’s comments. The federation is standing by Sandro,” Riso said. “He is playing his most important game – against betting addiction. He’s in shock, he’s very sad.”
At the same event, Gabriele Gravina, the FIGC president, said: “As a human being I feel for the two players, they are like children to me. We should not condemn these young boys. Gambling addiction is not a football problem, it’s a social plague. I assure you that whoever is asking for help we will help.
“Whoever made a mistake will be punished and helped in a healing and recovery project. We need to put these people on a path to recovery. We have to make sure these children can come back. We will not abandon these boys. Ever.”
With no action taken against Tonali to date, the former AC Milan midfielder is free to play for Newcastle this weekend against Crystal Palace if selected, and Riso confirmed that the player is training as normal in preparation for the game.
“He is training at the moment (at Newcastle). He told me he trained very well. He can play Saturday.”
Sources in Italy have told 90min that more players are expected to be named in the coming days, as Italian prosecutors continue to investigate, and the impact of the scandal has been felt by Italy manager Luciano Spalletti and the players remaining in camp.
“The players (Tonali and Zaniolo) were absolutely distraught,” Spalletti remarked of the situation. “When you are part of a national team, very strong ties and bonds are created. We’ve all been affected by this. It’s sad. It’s hurt us all.”
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