Newcastle and Italy midfielder Sandro Tonali has been banned for 10 months by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) for breaching betting rules.
The 23-year-old will not be eligible to play again until August and will be unavailable to feature at Euro 2024 next summer should Italy qualify.
Tonali joined Newcastle from AC Milan in July for £55m.
Earlier this month, Juventus midfielder Nicolo Fagioli received a seven-month ban from the FIGC for betting breaches.
The FIGC confirmed that Tonali had breached the rule which prohibits players from placing bets on football events organized by FIGC, Uefa and Fifa, and he has also been fined 20,000 euros (£17,380).
It added that the federal prosecutor and Tonali had agreed to an 18-month disqualification, eight months of which will be commuted to “a therapeutic plan” to help “recovery from gambling addiction”.
That will include at least 16 public appearances in Italy, at amateur sports associations and “federal territorial centres”.
FIGC president Gabriele Gravina told Sky Sports Italia: “The plea bargain and extenuating circumstances have been taken into consideration and the players’ collaboration went above and beyond, therefore we must continue to respect the rules we have established for ourselves.”
Juventus’ Fagioli had five months of a one-year ban suspended and was fined 12,500 euros (£10,850). Fagioli also agreed to a therapy plan of at least six months to tackle his gambling problem.
Tonali and fellow midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo, who is on loan at Aston Villa from Galatasaray, left Italy’s training camp on 12 October after being told they were involved in an investigation by Italian prosecutors.
During a three-year spell at San Siro, Tonali helped Milan win their first Serie A title for 11 years in 2021-22 and reach last season’s Champions League semi-finals.
He came off the bench during Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Tonali has made 12 appearances for Eddie Howe’s side since becoming the Magpies’ second-most-expensive signing.
Speaking before Newcastle’s last Premier League fixture, a 4-0 win over Crystal Palace, Howe said Tonali had endured a “difficult couple of weeks”.
“He’s been dealing with a lot and, from what I can see, from a few hours a day, he’s handling himself really well and is dealing with emotions incredibly strongly,” Howe added.
Newcastle, who are sixth in the Premier League, travel to Wolves on Saturday before facing Manchester United in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
‘Newcastle have shown Tonali great support’
Speaking before Tonali’s ban was announced, former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer told BBC Radio 5 Live it will be “really difficult” for Tonali to remain living in England while he is banned from playing.
However, Shearer added that the “Newcastle public have shown great support” to the Italian.
“He [Howe] came out and stuck up for him as you’d expect and he said he wanted everyone to put their arms around him,” Shearer said.
“Certainly the crowd did that at the weekend [against Crystal Palace] and when they were going round the pitch at the end he got a great reception. There’s a fine balance between punishment and protecting people.”
Brentford and England forward Ivan Toney is serving an eight-month ban for breaking Football Association betting rules – including betting against his own team in seven games where he did not play.
Premier League clubs have collectively agreed to withdraw gambling sponsorship from the front of their matchday shirts by the end of the 2025-26 season.
However, after the deadline, clubs will still be able to continue featuring gambling brands in areas such as shirt sleeves and LED advertising.
Wolves boss Gary O’Neil said there needs to be “good education” for players around gambling.
“If I go back to when I was playing, it was everywhere. It was part of the culture, it was on the team bus, people checking scores at half-time,” O’Neil said on Thursday, before Tonali’s ban was announced.
“It can seem fun and nothing, but all of a sudden you’re missing football for eight months and missing loads of money.”
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson added: “What happened to Ivan and Sandro, that unfortunately is their responsibility and maybe not the fact that they play for a football team with a betting name on their shirt.
“I wouldn’t agree that the sponsors’ clubs have made players gamble. The decision to gamble is an individual decision. Maybe more education is needed, I couldn’t disagree with that.”
A statement on behalf of The Big Step, a campaign to end all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football, read: “Footballers are human and if they are suffering from addiction they deserve empathy and support, not lengthy bans.
“Every football game is wall-to-wall with gambling ads, not just across shirts but around stadiums and related media content.
“Sending someone addicted to gambling into this environment is like sending an alcoholic to work in a pub. If you force young footballers to endorse addictive products, then don’t be surprised if they use them.”
Source: BBC SPORT