EDDIE HOWE has brushed off suggestions that Sandro Tonali had to be “dragged” to Newcastle United, and insisted the Italian’s desire to test himself on Tyneside was one of the key reasons the Magpies pushed so hard to secure his signature.

Tonali made his first appearance in a Newcastle shirt on Tuesday evening, and impressed in his 45 minutes on the field during his side’s 2-1 friendly win over Rangers at Ibrox.

In the immediate aftermath of the Italian’s £55m switch to St James’ Park, stories emerged in his homeland suggesting he did not want really want to leave AC Milan and “had to be dragged” onto the plane that took him to Tyneside.

Howe is adamant that was not the case, insisting Tonali was immediately enthused by the prospect of plying his trade in the Premier League with Newcastle.

“I think that’s (the Italian reports) totally misguided,” said the Magpies boss. “Sandro is very, very proud to be here, and proud to wear the shirt and represent the club.

“That was made very clear to me very early, otherwise we wouldn’t have committed to the transfer. We don’t have any kind of desire to drag anyone to Newcastle – they have to want to run there with no shoes on.

“That’s the mentality we want because you have to have that togetherness, spirit and desire to do well. That can only come from a desire to play for the club.”

Tonali was part of the Newcastle squad that flew to the United States today, and will step up his match minutes during the forthcoming Premier League Summer Series. The Magpies will play matches against Aston Villa, Chelsea and Brighton in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Harrison.

The 23-year-old got his first taste of life in black-and-white in Glasgow, and hit the ground running as he slotted seamlessly into a role on the right-hand side of Newcastle’s midfield three.

His slide-rule pass helped set up the Magpies’ opening goal, releasing Elliot Anderson, who then played in Miguel Almiron, and he was quick to join his fellow midfielders in adopting the high-pressing style that Howe is keen to continue developing this season.

“I was very impressed with Sandro,” said Howe. “I thought he was excellent. Everything we hoped he would bring, he did in that first 45 minutes.

“He was very calm and composed, and technically, he was at a very high level. He built good relationships with the players around him, and looked at home in a black-and-white shirt. It was a great start for him.”


Like the majority of the players that started Tuesday’s game, Tonali was taken off at half-time, with Howe holding a debrief with his entire squad once the final whistle had blown.

The Italian, who captained his national side’s Under-21s team at the European Championships this summer, is set to be a key performer in the Magpies midfield this season, with Howe confident his creative vision and comfort in possession will be an ideal fit for Newcastle’s slick passing style.

“We had a quick nod and a smile after the game,” said Howe. “I think you could see he was enjoying himself by his body language and how he plays. He looked like he was enjoying himself, certainly with some of the players around him, in that first half.

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t enjoy playing that type of football, with the players that he’s with. There was a really attractive style, I thought we moved the ball really well, and he was pivotal to that.”