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In Focus: Tonali no Pirlo but can be a great No8 for Newcastle
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Dan Fitch
Sandro Tonali is Newcastle's latest signing
Sandro Tonali is Newcastle's latest signing

Newcastle have won the battle to sign Sandro Tonali from AC Milan and their fans will be hoping that he can make a real difference in the Magpies' engine room. 

Eddie Howe's team held off competition from Premier League rivals to sign the Italian in a massive boost to their preparations for next season. 

Ahead of Toon's pre-season campaign, which begins on July 15, we take a look at what qualities Tonali will bring to Newcastle. 

Pirlo comparisons

When still a teenager, Tonali had the pressure of being dubbed the new Andrea Pirlo. 

It was a lazy comparison. Based on both starting their careers at Brescia, being employed in deep midfield positions and sporting long, dark hair. 

Tonali countered that he had instead modelled his game on another AC Milan great in the form of Gennaro Gattuso. 

It is certainly a more accurate comparison. The 23-year-old is not a deep-lying playmaker. His combative spirit, work-rate, ball-carrying and tackling ability, are his greatest assets. 

Tonali is a good passer and a better one than the likes of Howe's other midfield options such as Joelinton and Joe Willock 

He is also a talented set-piece taker, though he will face major competition for that responsibility at Newcastle from Kieran Trippier. 

Newcastle position

Sandro Tonali covers plenty of ground in midfield
Sandro Tonali covers plenty of ground in midfield

The long-standing Pirlo comparisons have seen some speculation that Tonali could be a No6 within Newcastle's midfield trio, freeing Bruno Guimaraes to take another role. 

Though the Italy international could fill that position, it would seem more likely that he will be used on the right of the three. 

For Milan, Tonali played as part of a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 but in a box-to-box role, rather than as a holding player. 

Last season, Newcastle usually played either Willock or Sean Longstaff on the right side of their midfield. 

If Tonali were to occupy that role, he would add his ability to run with the ball and long-passing that were evident in AC Milan's counter-attacking style last season. 

He is also a useful crosser of the ball, which is a handy trait for a position that often sees the midfielder in space around the corner of the penalty area. 

Milan regret

Sandro Tonali was reluctant to leave AC Milan
Sandro Tonali was reluctant to leave AC Milan

Many foreign players dream of playing in the Premier League. Tonali only had eyes for AC Milan — the club that he supported as a boy. 

Only last year he spoke about his desire to remain at the San Siro with the Rossoneri. 

He said: "I know what I went through to get here, and I'd never make the mistake of leaving." 

When news broke of his transfer to Newcastle, reports claimed that Tonali broke down in tears upon being told that the Magpies' offer had been accepted. 

Having effectively been forced to leave the club that he had long dreamt of representing, it would be natural if this takes some kind of mental toll on the midfielder. 

So Newcastle fans may need to be a little patient with their expectations of a young player who took time to settle in when he first joined Milan. 

Yet it is those fans that may perhaps be key in making Tonali feel at home. His love for his former team was born from watching them on the terraces. 

Football supporters do not get much more passionate than those at St James' Park and though Milan will remain in his heart, Newcastle can become his new home.


Newcastle UnitedSandro TonaliPremier League
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