SANDRO TONALI will not be eligible to face Wolves tomorrow afternoon after FIFA this evening confirmed they had approved the Italian Football Federation’s request to uphold the Newcastle United midfielder’s ten-month ban for gambling offences.

On a day of considerable confusion, Eddie Howe had earlier suggested that Tonali could be named in the squad at Molineux as Newcastle officials had not received any communication from FIFA informing them that the 23-year-old had been banned.

However, the situation changed tonight when FIFA confirmed they had received a formal request from the Italian authorities and had imposed a worldwide ban with immediate effect.

Tonali has been banned for an 18-month period, with eight months of the penalty suspended. As a result, he will not be able to play in a competitive fixture until late August 2024, although it is anticipated that he will be able to train with Newcastle’s first-team squad and potentially play in non-competitive matches.

The Italian Federation announced the sanction, which includes eight months of rehabilitation, including therapy, on Thursday, but only completed their own formal ratification process today.

Tonali, who was a second-half substitute in Wednesday night’s Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund, must now begin his suspension, with Newcastle’s preparation for tomorrow’s televised team-time game at Molineux having been disrupted by the confusion.

The uncertainty over Tonali’s status was hardly ideal as Howe attempted to prepare his team in a condensed two-day period between Wednesday’s game with Dortmund and tomorrow’s match at Wolves.


The entire Tonali saga has played out in public in Italy, with snippets of news and speculation emerging before they were publicly released or confirmed, and Howe admits he has had to get used to dealing with a large amount of confusion.

 “I’m slightly removed from everything because I’m focused on training and game preparation,” said Howe. “Then you come back and hear little bits of snippets of news about how things are going.

“I’ve sort of come to mentally accept that now. I’ve had to accept that, with the situation, I’m not going to know what’s going on and I’ll probably hear it a bit further down the line, and I’m going to be without Sandro for a long time at some point, but when that is, we don’t quite know. Once you mentally accept that, I can handle it and focus on the players that I do have.”

While Howe has been focusing his attention on supporting Tonali and attempting to ensure the midfielder’s wellbeing, other senior figures at Newcastle have been considering how to deal with the fall-out from the saga.

It was suggested within the Italian media earlier this week that Newcastle were preparing to sue Tonali’s former employers, AC Milan, but while all avenues remain open, sources were last night distancing themselves from the possibility of legal action.

Newcastle have been criticised, in some quarters, for failing to carry out adequate checks on Tonali prior to agreeing a club-record £53m transfer, but Howe insists it would have been impossible to foresee the events of the last few days.

“I've seen a lot of comments from people saying we should have known,” he said. “There's absolutely no way we could have known. You can put more resources into it, but there are some things you will never know about someone's personal life.

“That’s just how it is. You make a signing in good faith. There will always be an element of risk with any player that we have signed, that any player we have signed historically, but these things can happen.”

Howe feels Tonali is coping with the current situation reasonably well, but accepts there will inevitably be some tough times ahead.

“If he is ultimately banned for that length of time (ten months), he’s going to have really difficult moments within that timeframe,” he said. “There’s a lot of attention on him initially, and that's a difficult situation for him.

“But then, no doubt, there'll be a period where it’s just training – wherever he trains – and no game, and that’s very difficult for any player to adjust to, especially when they're fit and able to play, so that's going to be a difficult one.”