Aston Villa’s loan midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo is an Italian international, but he’s prematurely been sent back to England along with Sandro Tonali of Newcastle United.
Italy boss Luciano Spalletti has spoken of his intention to support Aston Villa loanee Nicolo Zaniolo amid the allegations that surfaced last week in relation to illegal gambling. Midfielder Zaniolo, who Villa have borrowed this season from Turkish side Galatasaray, arrived at Bodymoor Heath in the summer but what the future holds is, for the time being, shrouded in uncertainty.
Italian press agency ANSA reported last week that Zaniolo and Newcastle United player Sandro Tonali were spoken to by prosecutors on Thursday at Italy’s training base in Coverciano near Florence over allegations of illegal betting. The Italian FA consequently confirmed that the two players had returned to their clubs and would play no part in the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta (who they beat 4-0 on Saturday) and England, who they take on on Tuesday.
Spalletti, who will now be without two key players for a significant fixture in their qualifying campaign at Wembley tomorrow, admits that losing the pair is a blow to the dressing room and he indicated that he will stand by Zaniolo.
“It’s not nice to say who decided, it’s enough to say that it’s the correct decision,” Spalletti said. “We can’t bring two guys who have been shocked like that to play a game. Now let’s think about playing, we lose two champions but we remain a very strong team.
“It was a difficult night, when you have to get results there is always anxiety, but this was a different night, with a lot of bitterness over what happened. The whole squad is close to Tonali and Zaniolo, we’re very sorry for them. We will continue to be close to them even afterwards. For now, they have the spotlight on them.
“We must try to help them defend themselves, but it’s also right that justice takes its course and if irregularities have occurred, then it will be right to pay.”
Zaniolo is on a season-long loan at Villa from Turkish club Galatasaray, who he joined from Roma earlier this year. To date, the 24-year-old attacking midfielder has made six appearances for Unai Emery’s side. Tonali, meanwhile, signed for Newcastle from AC Milan this summer in a £55million deal.
Italy faced Malta in Bari on Saturday before travelling to England to take on Gareth Southgate’s side at Wembley on Tuesday night. Luciano Spalletti’s team are currently second in Group C, three points behind leaders England. Birmingham Live have approached Aston Villa for comment.