Sandro Tonali’s arrival at Newcastle United last summer was the beginning of a new era for the club.
The £55m midfielder was a marquee signing for the Magpies and exemplified their ambitions having just qualified for the Champions League at the end of last campaign. The Italian made a fast start to life on Tyneside, but now faces an extremely uncertain future at St James’ Park.
Tonali is facing a lengthy ban after admitting to placing bets on matches involving his former club AC Milan, potentially resulting in a suspension from football of three years. While the midfielder’s ban is likely to be reduced due to his cooperation with the Italian FA, his compatriot Nicolo Fagioli has already received a seven-month suspension for similar offences.
Given that Tonali could feasibly miss the rest of Newcastle’s campaign, or at least the majority of it, Eddie Howe may need to dip into the transfer market to replace his flagship signing. The 23-year-old’s absence would leave a significant void that needs filling and 90min understands that the Magpies are already drawing up a list of contingency options.
Here’s who they are keeping an eye on.
Having struggled for game time since his arrival at Man City back in 2022, it looks inevitable that Kalvin Phillips will need to look elsewhere for regular minutes.
The holding midfielder was still selected in Gareth Southgate’s England squad despite having played just 167 minutes this season for his club and was perhaps fortunate not to be sent off when starting against Italy during the October international break. Phillips put in the performance of a man short on match sharpness at Wembley and he needs to get back on the pitch regularly if he hopes to be on the plane for Euro 2024.
He is a player that’s very much on Newcastle‘s radar, with the Magpies interested in the former Leeds United man prior to his move to Man City. The 27-year-old was linked with a summer exit in search of first-team football but a transfer never materialised, with both Newcastle and West Ham mooted with an interest.
It’s understood that Phillips will give himself until Christmas to kickstart his Man City career but will likely call quits on his time at the Etihad if he still can’t find a place in Pep Guardiola’s starting lineup.
Another Manchester-based midfielder frustrated with his lack of first-team football is Scott McTominay. Fresh from a stoppage-time brace against Brentford for Man Utd, the 26-year-old has only managed two starts for the Red Devils this season and a handful of cameos from the bench.
Eddie Howe appreciates McTominay and the Scotland man is another name on the Newcastle manager’s shortlist. However, it may be difficult to convince the midfielder that a move away from Old Trafford is the right move for his career, with McTominay not angling for an exit himself.
Man Utd rejected a sizeable £30m bid from West Ham for McTominay in the summer despite needing to raise funds, but Erik ten Hag has struggled to find a space for him in his midfield. If Newcastle were to make a swoop for the 41-cap international, they would likely have to offer a greater sum than the Hammers did several months ago.
Despite their being a number of obstacles in the way of Newcastle moving for Andrey Santos, the 19-year-old remains a player that has intrigued those at St James’ Park. The Magpies tried to bring him to Tyneside prior to his Chelsea move, but could revive their interest in the Brazilian this January.
However, this would be an extremely complex deal. Firstly, Santos is currently on loan at Nottingham Forest and, despite having not featured for his new club yet, that temporary deal would have to be terminated to facilitate a Newcastle switch.
Secondly, Newcastle already have Lewis Hall on loan from Chelsea, meaning they would have to make that deal permanent as Premier League clubs can’t have more than one loan player from the same team at any given time.
While Hall will join the Magpies next summer due to an obligation to buy clause in his loan contract, Newcastle would have to bring that deal forward if they want to sign Santos as well.
Despite numerous reports linking Conor Gallagher with a Stamford Bridge departure during the summer window, the midfielder stuck around at Chelsea. That decision has paid dividends for the 23-year-old given he has started every Premier League game for the Blues this season and become a firm favourite under Mauricio Pochettino.
However, his future at Chelsea remains uncertain despite reports suggesting that the midfielder could sign a new contract with the Blues. Newcastle might pounce if contract negotiations break down, with Gallagher deemed a more realistic transfer target than Santos.
Gallagher certainly fits the profile of an Eddie Howe midfielder but could prove out of Newcastle’s reach given the significant role he is playing for Chelsea this season.
Given Ruben Neves only made his £47m move to the Saudi Pro League last summer, signing the Portuguese midfielder wouldn’t be straightforward or cheap.
However, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that the Saudi PIF that owns Newcastle could pull some strings to help the Magpies out. It may seem unlikely, but stranger things have happened in football.
Neves say never, you could say.
Manu Kone was a hot topic during the last transfer window, with strong links to the Premier League rearing their head throughout the summer. While initially linked with a move to Liverpool, the Reds’ interest in the 23-year-old is said to be dead in the water.
Liverpool taking a step back could pave the way for Newcastle to take a step forward in their pursuit of a new defensive midfielder, with Kone someone who has interested the decision-makers at St James’ Park.
Despite extending his deal until 2026 with Borussia Monchengladbach, both club and player are open to Kone making a move in the January window. As a result, the highly-rated Frenchman could emerge as a candidate for Howe and his recruitment team.
Club: OGC Nice
Khephren Thuram was another young French midfielder linked with the bright lights of England over the summer, with both Liverpool and Newcastle taking a particularly detailed look at the Nice player.
Thuram, the son of legendary right-back Lilian and brother of Inter forward Marcus, has been identified as a long-term target at Newcastle and there’s hope he could be available in January.
There have been brief links with Man Utd given Nice owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe looks set to buy a minority stake in the club, but the Magpies still appear to towards the front of the Thuram signature queue.
Another midfielder strongly linked with Anfield is Andre of Fluminense. Liverpool wanted the 22-year-old in the summer but the Brazilian club were unwilling to sell him as they eyed Copa Libertadores glory – Fluminense have since reached the final against Boca Juniors.
However, Liverpool are the favourites to sign the midfielder in January, while Arsenal have also shown an interest in the youngster after sporting director Edu met up with Fluminense representatives over the international break.
While Newcastle don’t find themselves in a particularly strong position to bring Andre to St James’ Park, they would be foolish not to consider the Fluminense man in January given their current situation. Perhaps Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton could put in a good word to their compatriot.