Tonali's Emotional San Siro Return with Newcastle in Champions League
Newcastle United midfielder Sandro Tonali is preparing for an emotional return to the San Siro as his team faces AC Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday. This match marks his first visit to the iconic stadium since his departure from the Italian club in July.
Tonali, a 23-year-old Italy international, arrived in Newcastle for a reported fee of 70 million euros ($74.82 million) as part of the club's squad strengthening efforts ahead of their Champions League return, ending a 20-year absence.
While acknowledging that returning to the club he supports will evoke strong emotions, Tonali is confident that once the match begins, his focus will shift entirely to the game.
"I think I'm going to feel the emotion tomorrow at 90%. Today it's at 10%," Tonali told reporters on Monday. "I've met some people I'm familiar with at Milan and have been in touch with them."
He expressed that these emotions are rare and special in football, as Milan is the team he supports and the club that gave him the opportunity to succeed. However, Tonali is prepared to face them as a rival player. He stated, "This is the team I support and the team that gave me a chance to succeed. Things have completely changed. I am here as a rival, I have to manage that, but it won't be a problem."
Tonali humorously acknowledged that the situation might be more challenging for his father, a passionate Milan fan. He mused, "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. Maybe he will want a draw?"
Newcastle's arrival in Milan for their Group F opener was delayed due to adverse weather conditions in Italy, which affected their flight schedule. Despite the inconvenience, manager Eddie Howe expressed pride in leading the club back into Europe's elite competition, a remarkable achievement made possible by the club's acquisition by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund two years ago.
Howe acknowledged the challenging nature of their group, which includes Paris St Germain and Borussia Dortmund, and emphasized the importance of competitiveness and showcasing their style of play.
The manager also praised Tonali, highlighting his dedication to the game and leadership qualities. Howe is excited about Tonali's potential impact on the team.
Tonali, who was warmly received by the Italian media, reflected on his transfer to Newcastle and the warm welcome he has received. He noted the club's strong work ethic and the enthusiasm of the people involved.
"I have found a wonderful team and a wonderful staff. They are ready to welcome anyone, and I realized that Newcastle people love what they do. In these two months, I've seen the whole team working non-stop, 24/7 at the training ground," Tonali remarked.