Newcastle United midfielder Sandro Tonali will be banned from football for 10 months over breaches of rules on betting on matches in Italy, the head of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said on Thursday.
Italy midfielder Tonali, 23, who joined Newcastle from AC Milan in a deal worth €70 million ($76.28m) with add-ons this year, must also attend treatment sessions for problem gamblers and give a series of talks about his experience over a further eight-month period as part of a deal with the FIGC.
The plea bargain agreement, which is expected to apply globally, was confirmed by FIGC president Gabriele Gravina. It will rule Tonali out for the remainder of the club season and next summer’s Euro 2024 tournament.
Tonali is the highest-profile player caught up in a betting scandal that is shaking Italian football.
FIFA and FIGC regulations meant that Tonali could have faced a three-year suspension, but his cooperation with the authorities leading the investigation — the FIGC and the Italian prosecutor’s office — led to a reduction in the length of his ban.
He is one of three Italian footballers whose gambling activities have come under investigation from authorities.
Tonali and his international teammate Nicolò Zaniolo were sent back to their respective clubs from Italy’s training camp on Oct. 12 after being notified by police of involvement in a betting investigation.
Both players featured in the Premier League last weekend, with Tonali coming off the bench for Newcastle, while Zaniolo played 76 minutes for Aston Villa.
Tonali’s agent, Giuseppe Riso, said last week that the player is “fighting against a gambling addiction” and that he is “shocked, shaken and sad” as a consequence of his situation.
ESPN reported last week that Juventus midfielder Nicolo Fagioli was handed a seven-month ban with an extra five months suspended by the FIGC over breaches of betting rules. He was also fined €12,500 ($13,235) for the violations relating to betting on footballing events organised by the FIGC, FIFA or UEFA.
The FIGC’s Gravina defended the plea-bargain system used to handle these cases rapidly and reduce the more severe penalties that could have been applied.
“The rules set out a certain number of years of sanctions, plea bargaining is allowed as are extenuating circumstances,” Gravina told reporters.
“The lads have been incredibly cooperative, so we continue to follow the rules as they are set out,” he added.
Tonali has made 11 appearances for Newcastle in all competitions this season and has scored one goal.
Information from Reuters contributed to this report