Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali and Aston Villa winger Nicolo Zaniolo have been sent back to their clubs from the Italy squad over an investigation into illegal betting that could lead to three-year bans.
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) have confirmed the astonishing developments ahead of crucial Euro qualifiers against Malta and England, with Luciano Spalletti’s plans left in chaos. The FIGC say the move for the pair to return to England was “partly for their protection”.
Both players were at Coverciano Technical Centre where Italy train when they were served papers on the investigation. Under regulations in Italy, players can be banned for three years if found guilty of breaches of betting rules.
“The Federation announces that this afternoon the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office has conducted investigations into players, Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo, who are currently training with the national team at the Coverciano Federal Training Centre,” read a statement from the FIGC.
“Regardless of the nature of the events, considering that the two players are not in the necessary condition to face the matches scheduled for the next few days, the Federation has decided, also for their protection, to allow them to return to their respective clubs.”
It is understood that Tonali and Zaniolo are not the only players under investigation into betting using illegal online platforms. The investigation will include seizing phones and looking into the alleged betting that has not gone through usual licensed bookmakers.
Juventus midfielder Nicolo Fagioli has already been under investigation, authorities confirmed earlier this week. “I confirm the news of the investigation,” said Turin Chief Prosecutor Enrica Gabetta, one day before the dramatic news of Tonali and Zaniolo being involved in investigations. Fagioli’s lawyers say their client is cooperating with “maximum transparency”.
Newcastle and Villa will be anxiously waiting for developments on the investigation and whether two of their key players will be embroiled in a drawn out case. Tonali, the £53 million summer signing from AC Milan, made an instant impact for Eddie Howe’s team when he scored on his debut against Aston Villa.
The 23-year-old started in the Champions League games against his former club and the famous win over Paris Saint-Germain.
Zaniolo, meanwhile, is on a season-long loan from Turkish club Galatasaray and has forced his way into Unai Emery’s plans, starting in five out of the last seven games for Villa.
Any ban would be likely to be served worldwide rather than in Italy. England full-back Kieran Trippier was suspended for 10 weeks across all football and given a fine of £70,000 after an English Football Association panel found he broke betting rules, even though he played for Atletico Madrid at the time.
Brentford striker Ivan Toney has been involved in a recent high-profile betting case in the Premier League recently when he was banned from football for eight months after he accepted breaking FA betting rules. He is suspended from playing until January.