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Newcastle ‘in limbo’ over Tonali betting ban

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe (centre) speaks with Sandro Tonali. Photo: AFP

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe said there is a “high chance” that Sandro Tonali could be involved in Saturday’s Premier League fixture at Wolves despite being handed a 10-month ban by Italian authorities for breaching betting rules.

The Italian football federation announced on Thursday the 23-year-old international midfielder had been suspended until next season following an investigation, although the sanction is yet to be ratified by governing bodies UEFA and FIFA.

Tonali’s agent has said his client, who joined Newcastle from AC Milan in July for around £55 million ($67 million) has a gambling addiction.

Asked for his reaction to the ban on Friday, Howe said: “It’s a difficult one because we haven’t had official confirmation as a football club yet.

“So we’ve heard the news, the speculation, statement, but we haven’t had anything from the Italian authorities at the moment so we’re sort of in limbo really, waiting for that official confirmation to come through.”

Howe said the Italian could feature at Molineux.

“There’s a high chance again he could be available for us,” he said. “I think there’s a few things that have to happen before the ban is imposed, so we’ll see.”

Howe, whose side are sixth in the Premier League after four wins in five games, said it was impossible to work with hindsight, when asked about the signing.

“You make a decision at the time with the knowledge that you have,” he said. “We really liked him as a footballer. 

“We had no idea that this was even a possibility so of course there’s an element of frustration and disappointment that we’re not going to have a quality player for a long period of time.”

Howe said Tonali, who came on as a substitute in Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday, had continued to train well.

“He was bright when he came on against Dortmund,” he said. “From the moment this happened, his training performances have been very good. His mood is the same—it is there in the background.”

Tonali and fellow midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo, who is on loan at Aston Villa from Turkish club Galatasaray, were forced to leave Italy’s training camp earlier this month after being told they were being investigated by Italian prosecutors.

Last week Juventus and Italy midfielder Nicolo Fagioli was handed a seven-month ban for breaching betting rules.

Howe confirmed that striker Alexander Isak aggravated a groin injury in the Dortmund match while Jacob Murphy suffered a dislocated shoulder.

“Alex is a groin which we don’t think is serious, but it’s a recurrence of the groin he suffered when he was playing for Sweden, so we need to assess that,” he said. “I think he’s having a scan today. We don’t anticipate that’s going to be too bad.

“Jacob’s is totally different, it’s a dislocation of his shoulder. It’s not clear what we’re going to do. I think he’s going to see a specialist today.”

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