Sandro Tonali: Deciding Whether Italy’s Precocious Young Talent Should Join Juventus or Inter

Sandro Tonali
Parma Calcio v Brescia Calcio – Serie A | Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Ever since his flowing jet black locks burst onto the scene in 2017 as a 17-year-old, it was pretty clear Sandro Tonali was a little special.

And amid a season of dysfunction and disappointment for Brescia in their return to Serie A, Tonali, now 20 and fresh off a campaign which saw him crowned Serie B’s Player of the Year, has continued to stick out like a sore thumb.

He’s a player who’s always been on the radar of FIFA Career Mode and Football Manager boffs, persistently drawing lazy comparisons to Azzurri great Andrea Pirlo as a result of his aforementioned locks and the fact he plays in a similar position on the pitch.

Daniele De Rossi, Andrea PirloDaniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo
Sandro Tonali has often drawn comparisons to Andrea Pirlo in the past, despite his play style resembling that of Daniele De Rossi’s | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

But in truth, there’s greater resemblance to the all-action but equally graceful Daniele De Rossi in Tonali’s game, while the Brescia midfielder has also spoken previously of his adoration for Gennaro Gattuso.

And now, with Brescia destined for the drop as Serie A prepares for its return next month, it seems inevitable that Tonali will be making the imminent step up to Italy’s elite. It’s a move the 20-year-old’s been destined for ever since he made his professional debut.

So, with Juventus and Inter set to battle it out for Tonali’s signature at the end of the season, let’s take a look at where the Italian’s next destination should be…

Miralem PjanicMiralem Pjanic
Miralem Pjanic’s consistent ineffectiveness as Maurizio Sarri’s regista saw him ousted from the starting XI before the break | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

With Miralem Pjanic continuously proving himself to be completely ineffective as the midfield screener, Aaron Ramsey struggling for fitness (shock) and Adrien Rabiot appearing to be afraid of this concept called ‘penetrating a defensive line’, midfield incompetence was a real issue for much of Maurizio Sarri’s debut campaign.

Tonali, a player adept in both number eight and six roles, looked like he’d slot in seamlessly into Sarri’s midfield.

But with Blaise Matuidi providing tenacity and balance in a more functional role, Ramsey returning to full fitness and the athletic Rodrigo Bentancur excelling at the base of midfield, the Bianconeri boss had finally found his ideal midfield formula before COVID-19 went global.

Although Tonali would be an upgrade over Matuidi, his place in Sarri’s starting XI certainly wouldn’t be automatic if he was to make the move to Turin, and the same goes for Inter.

Edin Dzeko, Sandro TonaliEdin Dzeko, Sandro Tonali
Sandro Tonali has often been deployed as a regista in a 4-3-1-2 this term | Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

While the potent ‘Lula’ partnership has been the talk of Antonio Conte’s maiden season at San Siro, the emergence of a diminutive pair of Italians in midfield was a key part of the Nerazzurri’s early success this term.

The dynamic duo of Stefano Sensi and Nicolo Barella have the potential to be Conte’s number eight pairing for the long-haul, with their struggles for fitness either side of the winter break a major factor in Inter’s 2020 slump.

And with the criminally underrated Marcelo Brozovic persistently shining as the screener of the backline, immediate opportunities appear slim for Tonali at the Nerazzurri. A rotational role seems more likely, especially with the likes of Christian Eriksen and Matias Vecino already vying for starting berths as well.

Juventus waltzed to their eighth Scudetto on the spin last time out | MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

Well, considering this is is the weakest Juventus side of the decade and they’re still a point clear at Serie A’s summit, hanging on in the Champions League and in a good position to make another Coppa Italia final, it’s hard to count the Old Lady out when it comes to silverware.

And with Matthijs de Ligt, Bentancur and Paulo Dybala making up their core for the future, the Bianconeri are in a healthy position to continue their monopolisation of Italian football for the foreseeable future.

The project at Inter, however, is an exciting one and with an elite coach at the helm, the Nerazzurri are probably two or three players away from transforming into a superpower once more.

So, although I’d give Juve the edge here, it’s also worth noting that Sarri has collected just one major honour in a 30-year coaching career- while ‘The Godfather’ has enjoyed a trophy-laden spell in management thus far.

Maurizio Sarri, Antonio ConteMaurizio Sarri, Antonio Conte
Sarri (L) and Conte (R) both took charge of their respective clubs in the summer | Fred Lee/Getty Images

Both Juve and Inter under their respective new managers this term have opted for a three-man midfield; with Maurizio Sarri often favouring a 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-3 with a deep-lying regista and two box-to-box ‘eights’, while Antonio Conte’s dynamic in midfield is somewhat similar in his tried and trusty 3-5-2.

Where the two slightly differ, however, is with their philosophies.

In possession, Sarri-ball is all about quick, vertical combinations to progress play, while Conte’s Inter, unsurprisingly, take a more direct approach with the aim of feeding Romelu Lukaku as fast as possible. While they’re also able to build-up with a little more patience, there’s nevertheless a clear emphasis on transitions.

And with his impressive vision and passing range, Tonali is probably more suited to Conte’s counters than Sarri’s combinations. The fact Brescia are a side who often surrender possession means the press-resistant Tonali isn’t exactly the high-volume passer Sarri desires from his number six. The 20-year-old, meanwhile, has been key in kick-starting his side’s attacking transitions with not only drilled long-range passes, but determined ball-carries as well, similar to Brozovic.

Marcelo BrozovicMarcelo Brozovic
Marcelo Brozovic is Inter’s linchpin; with his intensity, ball-winning capabilities and verticality in possession so key to Conte’s system at San Siro | Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

From a defensive perspective, I don’t have any concerns either way.

Tonali is an incredibly astute defender who reads the game to a high standard and is rarely caught out of position. Whether he’s given the task of remaining disciplined in a compact block or fiercely pressing an opponent higher up the pitch, the Italian has the capacity to master either role in any side.

Brescia are reportedly still demanding €50m for Tonali's services having recently rejected a €40m bid from InterBrescia are reportedly still demanding €50m for Tonali's services having recently rejected a €40m bid from Inter
Brescia are reportedly still demanding €50m for Tonali’s services having recently rejected a €40m bid from Inter | Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

It’s incredibly close between the two and overall, either giant would be a good fit in the long-term.

As it stands, it appears the only obvious opening for Tonali to make an immediate impact at either side is in a number eight role at Juventus. But despite his versatility and creative nous, his future lies as a number six.

Therefore, with Sarri gushing over 22-year-old Bentancur at the base of midfield, Inter may well be a smarter move.

Sure, minutes will be hard to come by initially – with the Nerazzurri boasting one of the finest defensive midfielders in Europe with Brozovic – but there’s certainly scope for the talented Tonali to play a rotational role to start, before evolving into the long-term regista under the Croat’s guidance in what proves to be a mightily exciting era with Conte at the helm.


Edinson Cavani Refusing to Take a Pay Cut Upon Departure From PSG

Paris Saint-Germain v Girondins Bordeaux - Ligue 1
Paris Saint-Germain v Girondins Bordeaux – Ligue 1 | Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Newcastle United and Inter target Edinson Cavani will not be taking a pay cut if he is to leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer.

The Uruguayan international reportedly wants maintain his whopping £170,000-per-week wages should he leave Parc des Princes, with his contract due to expire at the end of the month.

Arturo Calabresi, Edinson CavaniArturo Calabresi, Edinson Cavani
Amiens SC v Paris Saint Germain – French League 1 | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

According to Le 10 Sport, Cavani – the club’s record goalscorer – is heading for the exit door in the French capital following the permanent signing of Mauro Icardi on Sunday

Cavani addressed his future in an interview with PSG’s official magazine via Goal and explained: “My career will last for maybe several years still, here or elsewhere, I don’t know, I’ve spoken about it a lot with my entourage. I’ve always said that I would like to quit football rather than football quitting me.”

Newcastle and Inter are both said to be chasing the striker with the Italian club making the first move. However, Inter are apparently struggling to finance the Uruguayan striker as he refuses to take a pay cut from his substantial wages at PSG.

Foot Mercato have previously reported that Newcastle have been chasing Cavani’s signature, but news of his pay-cut refusal will be certain to test the resolve of the north-east club’s prospective new owners.

Paris Saint-Germain v Montpellier HSC - Ligue 1Paris Saint-Germain v Montpellier HSC - Ligue 1
Paris Saint-Germain v Montpellier HSC – Ligue 1 | Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Cavani has spent the last seven years in Paris after joining from Napoli and could be on his way back to Serie A if the Milan club can fund his demands. Cavani has been one of the best strikers in Europe for some time now, but at 33 years of age, his re-sale value would be very little.

Newcastle have struggled for goals this season though, with Steve Bruce highlighting that bringing in a proven goalscorer is one of his main priorities. The Magpies will have to weigh up the financial pros and cons of the huge wage that Cavani would demand.


Building Inter’s Perfect Serie A Side

Javier Zanetti - Inter
Javier Zanetti – Inter | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

With Antonio Conte at the helm and a resourceful backing off the pitch from big investors, the future is looking bright for Inter supporters.

The Nerazzurri had slumped during the mid-2010s following the departure of Jose Mourinho, but some astute business in the transfer market has seen the San Siro side emerge as title challengers again.

A club steeped in history, Inter and their fans have seen some incredible talents grace the Giuseppe Meazza, and here we’ve put together their ultimate player, from brains to brawn. Go figure.

Esteban Cambiasso - InterEsteban Cambiasso - Inter
Esteban Cambiasso – Inter | Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

There weren’t many more distinctive sights in football than seeing Cambiasso’s shiny head glisten under the lights of the Giuseppe Meazza.

The Argentine midfielder arrived at Inter after a short and uneventful spell with Real Madrid and adapted beautifully to Serie A, becoming an integral part of the Nerazzurri first-team.

A true student of the game, Cambiasso remodelled his style of play to suit his new role at Inter. With supreme footballing IQ, he was able to contribute both to defensive and attacking phases from central midfield.

Marco Materazzi - InterMarco Materazzi - Inter
Marco Materazzi – Inter | CHRISTOPHE SIMON/Getty Images

The sort of player you absolutely hate playing against but one you’d love to have on your team, Materazzi took on the role of hard man and defensive rock.

When he wasn’t chirping away in an opponent’s ears, Materazzi was providing the defensive grit and steely determination needed to succeed at the highest level.

He was also a commanding figure in the air, shown during the 2006/07 season when he scored ten Serie A goals from central defence. Obviously, the majority of those where headers from set pieces. Scored in a World Cup final, too.

Wesley Sneijder - InterWesley Sneijder - Inter
Wesley Sneijder – Inter | Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Truly one of world football’s unsung heroes, Sneijder was offloaded to Inter from Real Madrid back in 2009. The Dutchman settled quickly and became a vital piece of Mourinho’s treble winning outfit.

Sneijder was able to dictate the tempo of games from midfield, using his excellent vision and passing range, while his ball control and dribbling skills allowed him to steer clear of opponents and open up defences.

With a keen eye for goal, Sneijder often found himself on the scoring sheet in big games. His performances for Inter and Holland in 2010 left many outraged at his overlooking for that year’s Ballon d’Or prize.

Javier Zanetti - InterJavier Zanetti - Inter
Javier Zanetti – Inter | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Mr. Inter himself, Zanetti arrived from Banfield in 1995 and went on to spend 19 illustrious seasons with the Nerazzurri.

Zanetti was versatile, playing in both defensive midfield and at full back, but it was his work ethic that shone through. No matter where he was playing, he gave his all.

The engine on Zanetti was spectacular, so spectacular that it served him at the highest level right up to the ripe old age of 40. He’s probably still charging around some five-a-side pitch in Milan on Wednesday nights – with social distancing measures in place, of course.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic - InterZlatan Ibrahimovic - Inter
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Inter | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

When it comes to strength and physique, one of the first players who springs to mind has to be Ibrahimovic. The towering Swede quickly jumped ship from Juventus after their relegation in 2006, joining Inter.

Ibrahimovic’s stint at the club helped establish him as a top level striker, as tallied well into double-digit goals in his three Scudetti winning seasons with the Nerazzurri.

Zlatan’s ability to utilise his athletic 6’4 frame, coupled with natural goalscoring instinct, makes him virtually unplayable at times. Dominant in the air and untouchable when holding the ball up, Ibrahimovic strikes fear into defenders, and rightfully so. The guy’s got a black belt in taekwondo.

Obafemi Martins - InterObafemi Martins - Inter
Obafemi Martins – Inter | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Martins rose to fame early on in his career while at Inter. The young Nigerian forward showed great promise with his goalscoring ability, but it was his blistering speed that was most eye-catching.

Martins was insanely athletic, often displayed by his big back-flips in his goal celebrations.

Back in his Inter days, he could apparently run 100 metres in 10.6 seconds – an astonishing feat. Pro Evolution Soccer fans will definitely remember reaping the benefits of playing as Inter with this man up front.

Ronaldo - InterRonaldo - Inter
Ronaldo – Inter | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Arguably the greatest striker to have ever graced the game, Ronaldo arrived at Inter off the back of an astounding season for Barcelona in La Liga. Il Fenomeno hit the ground running at Inter, winning the Ballon d’Or in his first season with the club.

Known for his powerful dribbling ability, often rounding the keeper or bursting the net with a vicious strike, Ronaldo could do it all. Inter began to build their team around their new talisman as the Nerazzurri looked for their first Scudetto since 1989.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, however. Ronaldo suffered recurring knee injuries that saw him frequently sidelined toward the end of his stint in Milan. Ronaldo made 98 appearances for Inter, scoring 59 goals before moving to Real Madrid in 2002.

Alvaro Recoba - InterAlvaro Recoba - Inter
Alvaro Recoba – Inter | New Press/Getty Images

Recoba was relatively unknown upon his arrival at Inter from Nacional in 1997. They may not have known it at the time, but Nerazzurri fans soon discovered they had a special talent on their hands.

The Uruguayan marked his debut with a stunning brace against Brescia, scoring a 30-yard rocket and a masterful free-kick from even further out. The man just simply could not score a normal goal. Possessing one of the sweetest left foots we have seen in Serie A, El Chino’s debut set the tone for the rest of his Inter career.

Inter fans were regularly treated to Recoba’s moments of sheer brilliance. Just have a look at his highlight reel, you certainly will not be disappointed.


Inter Close to Striking €50m Sandro Tonali Deal After Agreeing Mauro Icardi Exit

Sandro Tonali
Brescia Calcio v Cagliari Calcio – Serie A | Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Inter are close to agreeing a deal to sign Brescia starlet Sandro Tonali by using the money raised by Mauro Icardi’s exit.

The Argentine’s loan move to Paris Saint-Germain was made permanent for an upfront fee of €50m on Sunday, meaning Inter already have a sizeable sum of money to play with once the summer transfer window opens.

Tonali has long been one of Antonio Conte’s top targets, and according to Corriere della Sera, a deal is now looking increasingly likely as Inter have already indicated their willingness to use the Icardi money to come close to Brescia’s asking price.

Brescia will demand a base fee of €50m, which has already seen Juventus drop out of the race. Maurizio Sarri’s side were not willing to go above €35m as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, but Inter are happy to pay more as they will soon come into that kind of money.

Inter are also aware that selling Lautaro Martínez to Barcelona would raise even more money, so there is an acceptance that they can afford to get a little crazy this summer.

Sandro TonaliSandro Tonali
Brescia Calcio v Cagliari Calcio – Serie A | Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

The Nerazzurri have already reached an agreement with both Tonali and his agent which will see the midfielder ink a four-year contract and earn close to €2.5m per year, so it’s now just a case of convincing Brescia to do business.

At the minute, Inter are yet to agree to pay that €50m and are instead trying to negotiate a slight discount, but Brescia are holding firm. They want to keep the 20-year-old and will not be forced to sell for cheap.

Owner Massimo Cellino recently confirmed that he would only sell Tonali if the youngster requested a move away, and he would rather see Tonali move to a team other than Inter or Juventus.

Antonio ConteAntonio Conte
SS Lazio v FC Internazionale – Serie A | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Inter are said to see Tonali as the man who can help bring the best out of January signing Christian Eriksen. The Dane has spent plenty of time as a deep midfielder since joining from Tottenham Hotspur, but Inter want to see him further up the field.

Signing Tonali would allow Conte to push Eriksen up behind Romelu Lukaku in attack, and everyone at San Siro is in agreement that that would be best for the team.

For more from ?Tom Gott, follow him on ?Twitter!


RB Leipzig Boss Julian Nagelsmann Admits ‘Nothing We Can Do’ Over Timo Werner Exit

Julian Nagelsmann ,Timo Werner
TF-Images/Getty Images

RB Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann has admitted there might be ‘nothing they can do’ should Liverpool or any other club meet Timo Werner’s release clause this summer.

The striker is on 24 goals in 28 Bundesliga appearances this season after netting a hattrick against Mainz during the week, and his goalscoring antics have caught the attention of, well, everyone.

The Reds are believed to be Werner’s first choice of an extensive chasing pack, and manager Jürgen Klopp has reportedly been trying to convince the board to stump up his £52.7m release clause, although 90min understands that the Anfield recruitment team may look elsewhere should Leipzig play hardball.

Nagelsmann is understandably not keen to lose his key man, and compares a potential exit to Robert Lewandowski swapping Borussia Dortmund for Bayern Munich in 2014 – a move which has left BVB without a league title since.

He admits, however, that if any interested party is able to meet his release clause, then there is little the club can do to stand in Werner’s way.

Nagelsmann said at a news conference: “Of course you have conversations from time to time, but I have not spoken to him about that in the recent past.

“I think he now has 34 goals and assists. I think you have to mention that I would like to keep him. That is an extraordinary quality.

“If he leaves for the next season there would be a big gap. It’s like if Robert Lewandowski leaves Bayern Munich. Nobody shouts ‘Hurray!’ there either, I think. They’re clearly weakened then, and it’s the same with us.

“That we’d like to keep him is completely normal. He has an exit clause until a certain date – I honestly don’t know when – and if a club comes along and he agrees with them by then, then that’s the way it is.”

Another club believed to the in the mix are Inter, who have been linked with a potential move should Lautaro Martinez complete his widely anticipated move to Barcelona.

Lautaro MartinezLautaro Martinez
Silvia Lore/Getty Images

Their sporting director Piero Ausilio, however, claims to know where his future lies – and it isn’t in MIlan.

“I know his plans,” Ausilio told Sky, as quoted by The Star.

“We have always liked him, and I say that to underline the great work of our scouting department. But he won’t come to us. “

For more from Robbie Copeland, follow him on Twitter!