Newcastle executive Dan Ashworth has confirmed that the Magpies might explore the Saudi market in January to find a replacement for the suspended Sandro Tonali.

The Italian midfielder is now serving a 10-month ban after FIFA extended the worldwide suspension. The 23-year-old was sanctioned by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), last week for violating betting regulations.

According to the FIGC, Tonali was also fined $21,400 for breaking a regulation that forbids players from wagering on matches sanctioned by the FIGC, UEFA, and FIFA. In addition, the player will take part in a treatment program for “recovery from gambling addiction.”

The Italian national team star, according to a statement released by Newcastle, will be eligible to play again on 7 August 2024. When the Premier League powerhouse paid $68 million to bring him from AC Milan in July, he was their second-most expensive acquisition ever. Since then, both sides have denied any prior awareness of any betting violations.

Ability to shop in Saudi Arabia questioned

The 10-month suspension handed down to Tonali for betting breaches has created an unexpected void in Newcastle’s roster, which is problematic given the club’s Financial Fair Play worries.

The upper-level management at St. James’ Park is well aware of the necessity to bolster the squad heading into the second half of the season. Consequently, it is tempting to consider loan transfers for one of the numerous star players who signed lucrative agreements with Saudi teams during the summer.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia owns four of the most successful teams in the nation, including an 80 percent majority share in Newcastle. As a result and to the dismay of their league opponents, they may presently recruit big-name players on loan from the Saudi Pro League.

Ruben Neves, a player from Portugal, has been mentioned in connection with a possible comeback to the Premier League. The summer saw Neves leave Wolverhampton for Al-Hilal, although he is said to be eager to return to England.

What did Dan Ashworth say?

When asked about replacing Tonali, Newcastle’s director of football Dan Ashworth told The Athletic that the club will be active in the January window. Ashworth is well aware of the scrutiny that will be thrown onto any economic dealings between Newcastle and Saudi clubs.

But he said there’s no way to stop it until the Premier League changes the regulations before the January transfer window starts: “The current rules and regulations say there is nothing to stop it.

“But there is a potential that the different organizations will look at things across related parties and what you can do to acquire players at a fair market value. There are lots of ways to do it and we are going to have to be quite creative.

“We have got to do what is best for this football club and get the best players we possibly can for the budget we have got, and that is what my job is. We want to be active.

“We obviously know we are going to be without Sandro for the rest of the season. But we’ve got quite a number of midfield players and we have a number of players who can play in different positions. You saw that the other night [knocking Manchester United out of the Carabao Cup] and that is one of the strengths of the squad. We’ve got a few injuries, but fingers crossed they are back and ready for January anyway.

“To answer the question, we’ve got a number of things we can do. It might not be a like-for-like replacement for Sandro. It could be a player who can play in a different position or multiple positions.”

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