Newcastle United announced on Monday that they have secured the services of Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali from AC Milan. The player has signed a five-year contract with the Premier League club, which will keep him at the club until 2028. But why did Newcastle sign Sandro Tonali?
The acquisition of Sandro Tonali not only seems to be a major strategic move for Newcastle, but it also brings them a player who many believe has the potential to become a future midfield star. Additionally, this signing showcases their considerable financial strength.
The transfer fee for Tonali will make him the most expensive Italian player ever, and it will also be a record-breaking sale for AC Milan, surpassing the 68 million euros that Real Madrid paid for Brazilian midfielder Kaka in 2009.
Why did Newcastle sign Sandro Tonali?
Tonali has frequently been likened to the iconic former Italian national player Andrea Pirlo. They share similarities as midfielders, both having long hair, and both emerging from the youth system at Brescia. This comparison became even stronger when Tonali joined Milan and quickly began to achieve success with the team. Similar to Pirlo, he made a significant impact by the conclusion of his second season. Pirlo won the Champions League in 2002-03, while Tonali played a crucial role in Milan’s triumph of the 2021-22 Serie A title, ending an 11-year Scudetto drought.
In the 2021-22 season, Sandro Tonali played in 36 league games, starting in 31 of them. He formed a strong midfield partnership with Franck Kessié and contributed five goals and two assists to help his team become champions. Manager Stefano Pioli heavily relied on Tonali, giving him more playing time than any other midfielder.
However, Tonali was still working on improving his game during this period. In the following season, 2022-23, Tonali seemed to change his approach. He scored only two goals in the league but excelled in creating opportunities for his teammates. The 23-year-old provided seven assists, a significant increase from the previous season’s two, and also generated more chances.
Some people in Italy believed that his performance had declined compared to the previous year, but he still made a significant impact on Pioli’s team’s decent campaign. The departure of Kessié to Barcelona at the end of the 2021-22 season might have had an effect, but Bennacer took on a more prominent role and continued to provide strong support to Tonali in midfield. While Milan’s defense of the Scudetto weakened as Napoli dominated in 2022-23, their impressive journey to the semi-finals of the Champions League, particularly Tonali’s contribution, stood out.
He holds the record for the highest number of chances created by a Milan player in a single season in the champions league last season since Clarence Seedorf in 2006-07. Only Jack Grealish from Manchester City and Piotr Zielinski from Napoli created more chances in the same competition. Additionally, he also had the most big chances created compared to any other player in the competition.
Tonali played the most games and accumulated the most minutes for AC Milan last season, so his availability for the magpies’ team will be a significant advantage. Additionally, he achieved the highest number of successful tackles in all competitions during the 2022-23 season for AC Milan, demonstrating his skill in regaining possession, which is crucial for Newcastle’s current style of play.
What type of player is Tonali?
Tonali can also be categorized as a contemporary regista. He possesses the skill to orchestrate Newcastle’s midfield, although there are uncertainties about whether he will fulfill that role due to the presence of Bruno G., who is also exceptional at controlling the game in the midfield. Additionally, Tonali’s proficiency in the build-up phase is worth observing as he has the necessary abilities to advance the ball into the attacking third.
Given the significant fee paid for Tonali, there will be high expectations for him. However, it doesn’t seem like a random move to just bring in a well-known player. Newcastle’s recruitment has proven itself, so it is reasonable to assume that there is a well-thought-out plan in place to maximize the potential of Tonali, who still has a lot of room for improvement.