Written By Onyeka Daniel
Today, AC Milan will welcome Newcastle United to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza and it will be a return back to familiar grounds for Italy midfielder, Sandro Tonali. The player has admitted that returning to the San Siro with Newcastle for their Champions League opener against Milan gives him ‘a lot of emotions’.
The 23-year-old midfielder was unexpectedly sold by the Rossoneri in the early stages of the summer transfer window, joining up with the Magpies in a deal worth over €70m. His departure caused concern amongst fans, only slightly alleviated by the club’s reinvestment in the market.
Tonali has shown some positive signs in his first few weeks with Newcastle, but still needs a little more time to truly shine under Eddie Howe, having to adapt to a slightly different role on the pitch.
Speaking in a recent interview, Tonali first discussed how it feels to return to the San Siro with Newcastle. “It’s been a very long journey and being here gives me a lot of emotions, I’ve played many games and I remember them all. “I will have to separate these emotions from the match, that will be my difficulty tomorrow night.”
He was asked what he would say to the Rossoneri fans. “I don’t know, I should say something different to each fan. But this is football, it takes you by surprise. “Both Milan and Newcastle fans will want to enjoy a difficult, intense game, to be played every minute.”
The 23-year-old gave his thoughts on Milan’s 5-1 derby loss to Inter. “Difficult to talk about, when you lose a derby and especially when you lose it like that it affects you, it’s not a good thing. “I don’t know how the players will get through it, but the chance to have such a close game will definitely help.”
He was asked if he’d spoken to his former Milan teammates. “Not yet, I know it’s bad after a derby loss and I preferred to wait.” Tonali spoke about his recent meeting with Stefano Pioli at Milanello. “We talked about everything except football. It was a meeting after months that we hadn’t seen each other, it was nice to get together without talking about football.
“We spent those 15 minutes as friends, it was nice.” The Italian midfielder commented on his physical condition. “I’m fine, I missed the matches with the national team and the last one in the Premier League because of a problem but tomorrow everything should be fine, no problems.”
He was asked If he feared not being fit for the return to the San Siro. “Yes, but I wanted to be there and play the game already with Ukraine. Unfortunately, I couldn’t after the tests, then I also missed Brentford…. It’s good that I can play tomorrow but I’m sorry I missed the previous two.”
He spoke about Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s recent appearance at the Milan training ground. “I’ve seen the pictures, Ibra is no longer at the club but he remains a reference point for all those who have experienced him and played with him. He will have brought charge, knowing him he is a person who never brings negativity.” Tonali was asked if he’d be able to sleep ahead of the match.
“After today’s trip I think it won’t be a problem…” The Newcastle united midfielder then spoke in a press conference, first discussing the trip from England. “These are strong emotions, but tomorrow will be the game. What I feel today will not be what I will feel tomorrow.”
He also commented on his transfer to the Premier League in the summer. “It was difficult for me, I hardly settled in Newcastle. But there are people who helped me, I found the way down and my life was made easier there.
“Even on the pitch everything changes, because you don’t feel that feeling like you do when you know all the teammates and the language, but I got that feeling from every side and every person.” The 23-year-old was honest about his emotions ahead of the game.
“They are difficult emotions, because this is the team I support and the team that gave me the opportunity to grow. But tomorrow will be something else and I won’t have any problems managing it.
“I will be difficult, seeing the stadium full… it will be the strongest emotion. Because the stadium helps you. But there will be many aspects, the coach, former teammates. It will be a full day. He gave his expectations for the clash.
“It will be an intense match, because that’s what we want to bring and what Milan brings. It will be a great match, difficult for both teams, but hard-fought.” Tonali spoke about how it felt to leave his home country. “I was at the U21 European Championships, I was immersed in football. It was quick and fast, because in 10 days the transfer was closed.
“I was lucky to find people who love to work and love this team, who want to help us players and the people who come here.” He was asked if his father would be supporting Milan or Newcastle.
“I don’t know who he will support. I don’t want to be in his head but I think he will take care of me. I hope he will support me but it’s very difficult to change a supporter’s mind about their team. I think he will support Milan and support me equally. He wants the best for me, then he’ll cheer for Milan.”
Finally, Tonali discussed his departure from the Rossoneri and if he wanted to stay. “It’s very difficult for a player to ask for a transfer to a specific club. A player is limited in what he wants to do. It’s difficult to decide where to go.
“From the moment I received the offer I was happy because I did my best with Milan. I worked with people who loved me and will still love me. I have talked a lot with people who love Milan. It didn’t happen overnight.” He further added.
Newcastle United legend, Alan Shearer believes Sandro Tonali ‘will do well’ at Newcastle, but his last few games were not as good as his debut and insists the current Premier League is bigger than the old Serie A.
The former England striker played and scored a brace in Newcastle’s last Champions League game 20 years ago, in a 2-2 draw against Inter at the Stadio Meazza. Shearer spoke to Italian press ahead of a new European meeting at San Siro, between the Magpies and Milan.
“The target is to qualify for the Round of 16. Obviously, it won’t be easy, but playing at Newcastle will be easy for nobody, due to the team’s quality and fans’ passion at St. James’s Park,” said the ex-striker. “I think they have enough to qualify for the Round of 16.” Tonali will return to the Stadio Meazza just three months after his permanent move from Milan. “His first game for Newcastle was amazing,” noted Shearer.
“Man of the match, goal, perfect in the middle of the pitch. I think that debut helped the fans understand who he is as a footballer and understand him. Probably, he didn’t play as well in the following games, but it happens. I am convinced he will do very well. “Newcastle owners found a way to improve the team in a measured way rather than invest a lot of money in a top star,” continued the ex-striker.
“The owners have chosen a different way and it’s working. I think everyone’s happy with what Newcastle is doing.” So, are the Magpies ready to win the Premier League title? “No, neither this nor next season, I don’t think they are ready. I think the most realistic target is to try to qualify for the Champions League again and with the new rules, finishing fifth could be enough.”
The Premier League has become the wealthiest league in the world over the last decade, but not long time ago, Serie A was the leading league in Europe. So, which one’s bigger? The current Premier League or the old Serie A? Shearer had no doubts.
“Premier League. Serie A was enormous and even here in England, everyone was talking about how big that league was,” he said. “There were the best teams and the best players, but the Premier League has gone beyond now. It’s an unstoppable machine that keeps growing. I think that as long as TVs continue paying more and more money, the Premier League will become bigger and bigger.” He further added.
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