Sandro Tonali admitted he was “a bit lost” when he first moved to Newcastle from AC Milan this summer - with the Italian facing an “emotional, thrilling” return to the San Siro.
The 23-year-old returns to his former club just three months after the Geordies bought him from his home town club for £55million. Italian international Tonali has confirmed the move from home was “difficult” but thanked Eddie Howe and his team-mates for their support and putting a smile on face.
He grew up a Milan fan with his “ultra” dad, Giandomenico, who still goes to every game, and had the chance to be a one-club Milan legend. Instead he is part of Newcastle’s Champions League revolution and has now settled on Tyneside - even explaining his visit to a Newcastle Wetherspoons pub in August.
Tonali said: “This summer has been hard and I’ve had a difficult start. At the beginning it was not easy to find my place, but I have found people to support me and to help me and I started to be happier.
“Mr Howe and my team-mates have been great. They are helping me in my personal and professional life. They have helped me settle. The language at the beginning was very, very difficult for me, communicating with the guys I found extremely tough, but it is getting easier and I’m very happy. It is getting easier.”DON'T MISS:
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Tonali watched Milan from the San Siro terraces aged 10 years. He won Serie A with Milan in 2022, their first for 11 years and became one of their skippers, as his Milan-supporting family lived the dream.
Asked who his dad will support at the San Siro, he joked: “I don’t know! I don't want to be in my father's head! He will support me I hope, but he is a fan and it is difficult to change your team so maybe he hopes for a draw. After this he will support Milan again and again.”
Tonali made headlines with his pub visit in Gosforth, Newcastle and he explained his low-key choice. He said: “After the game against Villa I had asked people about places and restaurants to spend a night with my family. I didn’t receive the answer I was expecting. I spent the night in a pub in my city. You don’t usually go to the pub with family but it was a special night! Fun!”
Milan sold their prized asset and Tonali admits players don’t always get their choice of transfer. He added: “It is difficult for a player to decide where to go, Real Madrid or Barcelona, but you can’t take that for granted. When I received Newcastle’s offer I was happy. I did my best with AC Milan and worked with people who loved me and still love me. I talked a lot with people thoroughly.
“At Newcastle I have come across a wonderful team and staff. They are ready to welcome me. I realised Newcastle people love what they do. In these two months I see the staff working 24/7 so hard. Football means accepting new challenges and I will be a professional.”
Playing at his home club will be special. “It will be the most thrilling feeling to come out into the stadium packed with people again," added Tonali. "They let me live my dream here at AC Milan but now I come back as a rival. I will have a lot of feelings tomorrow.
“Everything happened so fast with the transfer, I was overwhelmed at first. This stadium gives you energy. The first emotion will be finding it full of thrilling sensations. Then also my former team-mates. It will be a day packed full of emotions. I felt this game would happen when the draw was made. It was destiny."
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