AC Milan Coach Denies Knowledge of Sandro Tonali Gambling Problem

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

Last updated on: December 13, 2023, 10:48h.

Stefano Pioli, manager of Italian soccer giant AC Milan, insists the Seria A club knew nothing of defensive midfielder Sandro Tonali’s gambling issues before his move 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 said he still believes Newcastle got a great deal for Tonali, despite currently being unable to play him. (Image: BBC)

In October, the player was banned from soccer for 10 months, just four months after his high-profile move to Newcastle. That’s after he admitted to betting on games, including those he participated in, via illegal gambling sites, a violation of Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and English Football Association (FA) rules.

Newcastle paid £55million (US$70 million) for the 23-year-old in the summer, the highest ever for an Italian soccer player. But club executives might have thought twice if they knew he came with baggage, or at least demanded a discount. The club has refused to comment on whether it intends to take legal action against Milan.

Pioli told the media Tuesday he had no inkling of any problem and still believes Newcastle got a “great deal.”

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 was speaking at a press conference ahead of Milan’s Champions League clash at Newcastle on Wednesday night.

Organized Crime Connection 

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

Investigators questioned Tonali and fellow Italian international Nicolo Zaniolo at Italy’s training camp on October 12 as the team prepared for a crucial Euro 2024 qualifier against England.

Zaniolo, who plays for the EPL’s Aston Villa, denied betting on games. He did admit to playing online poker and blackjack, although he told police he didn’t know the sites he used were illegal.

‘Traumatic’ Investigation

Both players were sent home from the training camp and haven’t played for their country since. Italy’s head coach Luciano Spalletti described the experience as “traumatic.”

Tonali was facing a maximum three-year ban from the sport under FIGC rules. But his lawyer was able to secure a plea deal for the player. This involves eight months of rehab activities and at least 16 public appearances in support of problem gambling programs.

Also in October, Juventus midfielder Nicolò Fagioli was banned for seven months as part of a settlement with the FIGC after breaching rules surrounding betting on matches.