Newcastle United will have to make do without Sandro Tonali for the rest of the Premier League season after the player was suspended for breaching betting rules while at AC Milan.
Eddie Howe said on Friday that there was a “high chance” Tonali could be involved against Wolves, but the club released a statement on Saturday saying they received confirmation of the ban from Fifa.
The Italian will serve an 18-month ban in total, with eight months commuted as he undergoes a rehabilitation programme for problem gambling.
It’s highly likely that the Magpies are now on the lookout for a replacement in the January transfer window to plug the gap left by his absence. We’ve looked at a few possible signings the club could make this winter.
Three Sandro Tonali replacements Newcastle United could sign in January:
Ruben Neves – Al-Hilal
At 26 years of age Ruben Neves should be at the peak of his powers, but instead of showing off his talents in one of Europe’s top leagues he’s playing in Saudi Arabia, following his £47m transfer from Wolves in the summer.
The Portuguese international could return to the Premier League very soon, though, as reports suggest he could join Newcastle on a six-month loan deal in January.
Such a move would be ideal for Howe and Neves, but the optics would be terrible. As both clubs are own by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, accusations of impropriety would only increase if this deal were to be agreed.
There is, of course, nothing stopping Newcastle signing Neves on a short-term deal, but it would look premeditated, as if the plan all along was for Al-Hilal to sign the player and send him on loan to St James’ Park as a means of circumventing Financial Fair Play (FFP) restrictions – especially after they were linked with a two-year loan deal in the summer.
Scott McTominay – Man Utd
It’s no secret that Erik ten Hag wanted to offload Scott McTominay in the summer after handing him just ten Premier League starts last season. Manchester United were hoping to convince West Ham to spend a decent chunk of the Declan Rice money on the Scot, but the London outfit felt the asking price was too high.
The 26-year-old has earned some redemption in recent weeks, scoring an injury-time brace to complete a stunning comeback win over Brentford at Old Trafford before netting the opening goal against Sheffield United the following week. The Red Devils are still playing well below themselves, but he has injected energy and passion into the side to inspire an upturn in results.
"HE'S AT IT AGAIN!" 🔁
McTominay volleys home! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/EyjqqXOkop
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 21, 2023
Would United still be willing to sell McTominay after making such an impact? Ideally not, but the club are under pressure to keep in line with FFP despite announcing record revenues – they were fined £257,000 by Uefa for a “minor breakeven deficit” and spent £163m in the summer window. With the player’s contract running out in 2025, January will be one of the final chances to get a good transfer fee for him.
Kalvin Phillips – Man City
The £45m deal to take Kalvin Phillips from Leeds United to Manchester City is one of those rare transfers that didn’t work out for any party; the player has barely featured due to injury and a lack of form, the buying club will feel their money could have better spent elsewhere, while the selling club were relegated after losing their most important player.
It’s little wonder then that the 27-year-old has been heavily linked with a move away from Eastlands, with Arsenal, Liverpool, West Ham and, most recently, Bayern Munich all linked with the England international this year.
Phillips himself admitted earlier this month that he is “going to have to make a decision” on his future in the coming months to ensure he makes Gareth Southgate’s final Euro 2024 squad next summer.
“I want to play football and want to play as much as possible,” he said. “Over the last year and a half, I haven’t been able to do that due to injuries and [other factors]. It’s something I am going to have to think about. Hopefully, my chance does come but if it doesn’t then I will have to make other decisions as well.”