The Athletic have revealed that the Italian central midfielder was at the top of the English club's wishlist:
"Similar to the Isak signing, we didn’t really think we could get him. Sandro is a star at AC Milan. He lives and breathes the club. We weren’t expecting it", says a senior figure inside Newcastle.
As per the source, in the week beginning June 12, Milan officials were in London for a routine intelligence gathering mission in order to plan their approach for the transfer window. Chelsea had spoken to them about Tonali around the time of Champions League semi-finals and were ready with a list of three players to offer as part of the deal. Milan thought they may still be interested. Liverpool, were also interested.
Opportunity knocked for Newcastle; the word on the grapevine was if they could convince the player first then there was a possibility of persuading AC Milan into a deal. “Things changed, so we moved accordingly,” the senior figure says. Internally, they talked again and re-checked their analysis on Tonali’s skill set and character. It is at this point in transfers that Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of PIF and Newcastle’s chairman, becomes “very much involved, when we‘ve researched the player and given our reasons why.”
Green light given — the deal was driven by Ashworth, Nickson and Andy Howe, in conjunction with Newcastle’s head coach — there could be no leaks; coming so soon after the sacking of technical director Paolo Maldini, a club legend, selling Tonali was particularly sensitive for Milan, while Newcastle were desperate to avoid an auction.
On Tuesday June 20, Newcastle submitted an opening offer of €50million (£43m, $54.5m). By Wednesday, Ashworth and Nickson were holding face-to-face talks in Milan at the Palazzo Parigi Hotel, with the player’s representative Giuseppe Riso, an agent and former waiter who used to work at restaurants frequented by the biggest executives in Italian football, to finalise the deal on the players’ side before working on the acquisition with AC Milan.
The number moved closer to €70million with add-ons, with Milan haggling in vain for a structure that might get them to €80million over the course of Tonali’s contract (five years with the option for a sixth); for Newcastle’s part, they insist an initial fee of around €60million represents decent value for a player of his quality.
Taken from: TheAthletic.com
Our new midfielder. 🤩🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/gxX5qMrT0c
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) July 3, 2023