Sandro Tonali to Newcastle: Can He Become The Next Great Italian Export?

Published on 6 July 2023 at 14:00

For decades, the Serie A has stood as one of football’s finest leagues, from its heyday in the late 80s and early 90s to its immense reputation in modern times, Italians up and down the country have dreamed of representing the likes of AC Milan, Internazionale, Juventus and Roma on the big stage. 


Which is why it’s often rare to see Italian players make the move from the comfort of their home country into the likes of the Premier League and La Liga. The even rarer event is to see these players succeed or even outperform their domestic performances: for every Gianfranco Zola and Luca Toni, it wouldn’t be an understatement to say you have at least 10 Italian strikers who have failed to live up to lofty expectations from their time in Italy. 


Ciro Immobile stands out as a good recent example: immensely prolific for Torino, the striker’s outside of his native country aren’t as fondly remembered, with Immobile floundering at Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla. A return to Torino then move to Lazio revitalised Immobile’s career however, with the now 33-year-old scooping multiple top scorer awards and even a European Golden Shoe in 2019-10.


So with Newcastle United having officially signed Sandro Tonali from AC Milan, it’s a good time to highlight some of the very best of an very exclusive list: the best Italians currently playing outside of Italy.


Marco Verratti

A near-constant fixture in a PSG side constantly pursuing excellence, Marco Verratti stands out today as one of the most underrated players in world football. 


Despite the Champions League evading him and the rest of his teammates, Verratti has scooped 9 league titles and a dozen domestic cups during his time in the French capital.


Although he is injury-prone (having played in only 276 games for PSG since 2012), Verratti’s movement and ability with the ball is rivalled only by PSG’s premier attackers in Neymar, Mbappe and Messi. Calmed and composed in the centre of midfield, Verratti truly embodies all that we expect from the modern Italian midfielder. 


Vincenzo Grifo 

Described as being a technical genius with a penchant for set piece excellence, Vincenzo Grifo has become increasingly prolific in the Bundesliga for Freiburg, despite his status as a minor journeyman going between mid table teams. 


Grifo seems to be getting better and better as the years progress, recording his first double digit goal tally in just this past season, as he was the main driving force behind Freiburg securing Europa League football for the second consecutive season.


Wilfried Gnonto

One of the few highlights from Leeds relegation-afflicted 2022/23 campaign, Wilfried ‘Willy’ Gnonto has certainly established himself as one-to-watch in the future. 


Thrown into the proverbial deep end in his debut game for Leeds (Liverpool at Anfield), Gnonto, alongside Crysencio Sommerville, dazzled and amazed in Merseyside that night, and vitally set up Sommerville’s winner to inflict an incredibly rare home defeat upon the Reds.


As exciting as he is dangerous and versatile, Gnonto has already been setting landmarks and establishing records in his debut Premier League season, and the future is looking increasingly bright for the 19-year-old in spite of the Yorkshire club’s demotion from the top flight. 


Soon…Sandro Tonali?

Now Newcastle have made yet another marquee signing in the form of the 23-year-old midfielder Sandro Tonali, what can be expected from him now that he has arrived on Tyneside? 


Manager Eddie Howe is often very robust and regimented in his lineups barring injuries and suspensions: the backline of Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman and Burn was almost unchanged throughout all of last season. The Newcastle midfield is different however: Joelinton’s ability to be moved out to LW, as well as the rotatability of Longstaff and Willock should allow Tonali to waltz straight into the midfield from Gameweek 1. 


With some set piece and delivery capabilities to even rival the aforementioned Trippier, and already drawing comparisons to compatriots like Daniele de Rossi and Andrea Pirlo for his leadership and technical ability, Tonali truly looks to be a man on a mission for the Magpies, and may finally break the duck surrounding Italian talent arriving into the Premier League from the Serie A.

Who do you feel is the best Italian player currently playing outside the Serie A right now? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and on our official social media page now!

Image Credit-Newcastle United Football Club (@NUFC on Twitter)

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