IT was always going to be an emotional evening for Sandro Tonali as he returned to AC Milan, and as he reflects on Tuesday’s homecoming at the San Siro, the Newcastle United midfielder has two key thoughts.

First, he will never forget the reception he received from the home supporters, both when his name was initially announced and when he was substituted towards the end of the game, and is more convinced than ever that he will remain an AC Milan supporter for life. Second, that Newcastle’s goalless draw has given his current employers every chance of finishing above his former ones when the Champions League group stage concludes at the end of the year.

Born and raised as an AC Milan supporter, and having described his switch to the Rossoneri from Brescia as a “dream move”, Tonali freely admits it was a wrench to leave the San Siro to join Newcastle this summer.


As soon as the Champions League draw was made, he knew his return to Milan would be quite some occasion. How would he be received by the fans who once adored him? If he feared a negative reception, his worries were misplaced. In the eyes of the AC Milan ultras who created such a remarkable atmosphere on Tuesday night, the 23-year-old will always be ‘one of their own’.

“I will bring this embrace of San Siro with me for a very long time,” said Tonali, when speaking to the Italian media after the game. “It was something I will remember forever. You expect it to be wonderful, but when you are there, it’s different. The day of the game passed by so quickly, but I tried to enjoy every single minute.

“I cannot disguise my passion for Milan. I didn’t disguise it when I was at Brescia, nor playing for Milan and I won’t now that I am at Newcastle. It would not be possible or desirable to hide this passion.”

Even so, Tonali is desperate to finish above Milan in the Champions League group stage, and with that aim in mind, the midfielder regards Tuesday’s goalless draw as a positive result.

Newcastle were outplayed for long periods, and were heavily reliant on the goalkeeping exploits of Nick Pope, but they emerged with a point that sets them up nicely for next month’s eagerly-awaited home games against Paris St Germain and Borussia Dortmund.

“This is the most complicated group, as all four teams can qualify,” said Tonali. “The objective coming here was to keep a clean sheet and we achieved that.

“I saw a great Milan team, they are difficult to play against and can run from their box to ours with just a couple of through balls.”