By Aaron Hindhaugh •
Published: 20 Sep 2023 • 13:15
Newcastle United's stadium, St James' Park
The English media have not held back in their criticism of Sandro Tonali following his Champions League return to AC Milan for Newcastle United.
Tonali was fully expecting an emotional evening upon his return to AC Milan and the San Siro, the cub he grew up supporting, but was plucked from their grasp earlier this year by Newcastle who paid his boyhood club £65 million.
He was handed a start at the San Siro despite being on the bench against Brentford due to an injury he picked up while away on international duty and many fans were excited to see him start alongside Bruno Guimaraes.
However, what followed was an evening of stress and a lot of pressure being put onto Newcastle and their defence as AC Milan peppered their goal with 25 shots during the 90 minutes, and this was largely down to how ineffective the Premier League side’s midfield was.
Tonali failed to make an impact on the game with emotions likely getting the better of him as he still loves the Rossoneri, but that hasn’t swayed how he was perceived to have flopped in the Champions League by a large section of the media.
Sandro Tonali 6
“Not really his night as midfield questions continue to be asked.” – The Chronicle
Sandro Tonali (4/10):
“Rather useless in possession as he failed to pose a threat to his former team and gave away too many fouls.” – Goal
Sandro Tonali – 6
“Played in an advanced midfield role and given license to get forward against his former club but had little effect in the final third. Battled well but not able to break the opposition down. Left the field to a standing ovation. Booked.” – Shields Gazette
Sandro Tonali – 5
“Was a return to his boyhood club too much, too soon? Tonali often allowed the game to pass him by and created an unbalance the left-hand side by not doing his defensive duties.” – NewcastleWorld
Tonali – 5
“Forgot who he was playing for in the first 30 minutes. Not great. Looks uncomfortable, unfit and not very happy.” – The Mag
“So much love for Sandro Tonali here at San Siro, his old home, from #ACMilan and #NUFC fans. He looks almost overwhelmed as everyone sings his name.” – @henrywinter
It’s been several months now since Tonali left his old life in Milan behind for a Premier League adventure but given his role in a Newcastle team that’s stuttered so far this term, questions do need to be asked about his influence and what the Magpies getting for the money they spent on the midfielder.
Last night is a game that will live long in Tonali’s mind from an emotional point of view, but from a footballing perspective, it’s one he needs to forget and improve on immediately as he touched the balls just 20 times, managed zero key passes and also committed four fouls (Sofascore).
Eddie Howe will know he needs his big summer signing to step up and help get his team firing on all cylinders, but perhaps, maybe last night was just all too much for Tonali from an emotional point of view, and has a chance to bounce back this weekend against Sheffield United.
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