AC Milan Coach Claims He Was Unaware of Tonali Gambling before $70M Sale

Posted on: December 13, 2023, 04:45h. 

Last updated on: December 13, 2023, 04:45h.

Stefano Pioli, manager of Italian soccer giant AC Milan, revealed that the club was unaware of Sandro Tonali’s gambling problems prior to his transfer to Newcastle United.

Stefano Pioli, Sandro Tonali, AC Milan, Newcastle Utd
Stefano Pioli addressing media Tuesday, ahead of his team’s UEFA Champions League clash against Newcastle Utd. On Wednesday night. Pioli still believes Newcastle got a great deal for Tonali, despite currently being unable to play him. (Image: BBC)

Tonali, a 23-year-old defensive midfielder, was banned from soccer for 10 months due to admitting to betting on games, including those in which he played, via illegal gambling sites. This was a violation of Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and English Football Association (FA) rules.

Newcastle paid £55million (US$70 million) for the player, which was the highest ever fee for an Italian soccer player. However, had they known about Tonali’s gambling issues, it might have impacted their decision to sign him, or at least negotiate a discount. The club has yet to announce whether they will take legal action against Milan.

‘Great Deal’

Speaking to the media, Pioli stated that he was unaware of the issue and still believes Newcastle secured a “great deal” in signing Tonali.

“No, I didn’t know anything about Sandro’s problem,” Pioli said. “He was polite, respected, and gave respect to others, and was a sensible boy. Even if I think I have a close, open relationship with a player, I don’t only talk about football. But what they do outside, I don’t know everything about them.”

Pioli made these comments during a press conference ahead of Milan’s Champions League game against Newcastle.

Tonali’s gambling habits were uncovered during an investigation by Italian police into illegal online gambling with links to organized crime.

During the investigation, Tonali and fellow Italian international Nicolo Zaniolo, who plays for the EPL’s Aston Villa, were questioned at Italy’s training camp on October 12. Zaniolo denied betting on games but admitted to playing online poker and blackjack, though he claimed to be unaware that the sites he used were illegal.

‘Traumatic’ Investigation

After the investigation, both players were sent home from the training camp and have not played for their country since. Italy’s head coach Luciano Spalletti referred to the experience as “traumatic.”

Under FIGC rules, Tonali was facing a maximum three-year ban but his lawyer secured a plea deal. This involves eight months of rehab activities and at least 16 public appearances in support of problem gambling programs.

In addition, Juventus midfielder Nicolò Fagioli was banned for seven months due to breaching rules surrounding betting on matches.

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