Newcastle’s £52m star Sandro Tonali dubbed ‘new Andrea Pirlo’ and worked under ‘mad’ ex-Leeds chief

Sandro Tonali is a name that is extremely respected in Italy and we will now be able to watch his talents in England this season.

Newcastle announced the signing of Tonali from AC Milan for a reported fee of £52million last month.

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Tonali was Newcastle’s marquee arrivalCredit: Getty
Tonali's rise through the ranks has been impressive

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Tonali’s rise through the ranks has been impressive

The 23-year-old star was the Magpies’ top midfield target, and he has signed a five-year contract at St. James’ Park.

But how has Tonali turned into an in-demand international midfielder and one of AC Milan’s best players?

The 23-year-old was born in Lodi, Italy, to his father, Giandomenico and mother, Mariarosa.

His dad is a member of the Milan ultras and spends his days standing with them home and away.

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He grew up in an extremely religious background and spent a lot of time in the local oratory, which is a small chapel.

It was here he discovered his love for football and joined the chapel’s team, San Rocco 80.

His first on-pitch idol was Italian cult hero Gennaro Gattuso, who was known for his tough tackling and no-nonsense aggressiveness.

Gattuso was Tonali's idol

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Gattuso was Tonali’s idol

Tonali is also a boyhood AC Milan fan but suffered heartbreak when the Italian giants rejected him as a kid after a series of gruelling trials.

But despite this, he still lit up youth football and was said to have scored 100 goals during one season.

Of course, Tonali most notably played for Milan, but his road to the San Siro was long and arduous.

After Milan rejected him, he signed for Brescia’s academy and progressed through the ranks.

He quickly became one of the club’s most promising players and earned his senior debut as a 17-year-old.

But Brescia’s ‘mad‘ owner, former Leeds chief Massimo Cellino, barred Tonali from playing again until he signed a professional contract.

During the 2018/19 season, Tonali dragged Brescia to promotion and won Serie B’s Young Player of the Year award.

Tonalli only spent one season in Serie A with Brescia before joining Milan

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Tonalli only spent one season in Serie A with Brescia before joining Milan

Brescia only managed one season in Italy’s top flight, but Tonali did enough to convince Milan they had made a mistake, and the Italian international joined initially on loan before the deal was made permanent in 2021.

Here he has established himself as one of Italy’s best midfielders and earned comparisons to Andrea Pirlo due to his long hair and ability to dictate play from deep.

He has even received huge praise from the man himself.

Speaking in 2020, Pirlo said: “He is very good but he is different from me on the pitch.

“He has everything to be a champion but he is more a midfielder for a two-man midfield. He could already play for a great team; he is the best in this league.”

Tonali has been described as the next Pirlo

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Tonali has been described as the next Pirlo

But he doesn’t see the comparisons with Pirlo.

Speaking to the Italian media while at Brescia, he said: “The Pirlo comparisons started because of that haircut. They don’t bother me, but they are not suitable.

“We are different on the pitch, and Pirlo had supreme qualities. I don’t know who would be able to reach those heights.”

Tonali has made a good start in his bid to match Pirlo, with 14 senior appearances for the Italian national team and a Serie A title under his belt.

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He has made 130 appearances for the Rossoneri and played in all of Milan’s Champions League games during the 2022/23 campaign.

But after overcoming rejection and eventually playing for Milan, Tonali has earned his move to England and will form a key part of Newcastle’s project.

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