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Newcastle United star Sandro Tonali set for warm reception at San Siro

It’s been over two decades since Newcastle United last competed in the Champions League group stage.

A long wait will finally end on Tuesday when they head to San Siro to meet European powerhouse AC Milan in a tasty-looking Group F curtain-raiser.

The Magpies splashed out the club-record fee of €70 million to lure Sandro Tonali away from the Rossoneri in the summer, only for the Italian midfielder to return to Lombardy as a foe a few months later.

However, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, the Milan faithful holds no grudge against the 23-year-old, knowing he left his homeland unwillingly after the club pressured him to accept a move to Tyneside.

Unlike the case of Gianluigi Donnarumma, who ran down his contract to join Paris Saint-Germain for a truckload of money in 2021, Tonali’s exit was a necessary evil to help boost the club’s finances.

Milan used the money from the playmaker’s switch to Newcastle to heavily reinforce their squad in the transfer window just finished, hoping to better last season’s Champions League run to the semi-finals.

But following an embarrassing 5-1 derby defeat to Inter Milan, the atmosphere at San Siro looks toxic, with fans throwing insults at manager Stefano Pioli and his players after the final whistle.

Tonali won’t be in their crosshairs on Tuesday, with the Italian media anticipating a warm reception for a man who was supposed to be the Rossoneri leader and the captain for many years.

Although he’s still adapting to the Premier League, the midfield metronome has already established himself as a significant first-team fixture under Eddie Howe.

His endless work rate in the middle of the park has made him a perfect partner for Bruno Guimaraes, with the two expected to battle Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tijjani Reijnders for midfield supremacy tomorrow.

While Milan fans won’t give Tonali a hard time on his return, Donnarumma can expect to be booed when PSG touch down at San Siro on November 7.

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