At a very early age, the boy created a big impression in the international arena. He found himself on the wish list of some of Europe’s top clubs. The reports of the scouts have been impressive and after the observation of the experts, the boy from Lodi – a city and comune in Lombardy, northern Italy, primarily on the western bank of the River Adda – became the hotcake in the transfer market.

Sandro Tonali is all set to become another gifted midfielder from Italy and according to many, he is one of those gems who could be the next Regista like Andrea Pirlo, who, like Tonali, also started his career in Brescia.

He took his first steps as a young player for Lombardia Uno, a Milanese team with which he competed in the Pulcini category in the 2007-08 season when he was just 7!

The following year he moved to Piacenza, where he stayed for three seasons, before moving to Brescia at the age of 12.

Tonali made his professional debut for Brescia Calcio in August 2017 aged just 17, coming on as a substitute in the Serie B away match lost 2–1 against Avellino.

In April 2018 he scored his first professional career goal, in a 4–2 defeat against Salernitana in Serie B. He obtained 19 league appearances in total during his first season as a professional player, scoring two goals and providing two assists during the 2017–18 Serie B season.

The following season, Tonali won the Serie B title with Brescia, and achieved promotion to Serie A, featuring as a starter for the club throughout the entire 2018–19 season.

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He made his Serie A debut against Cagliari in the 2019-20 campaign with a 1-0 away win and played a total of 35 matches this season.

Then, he assisted Mario Balotelli’s goal from a corner kick in a 2–1 away loss to Napoli; he also scored a goal during the match with a powerful shot from outside the area, which was disallowed by VAR, however, for a foul by Brescia’s Dimitri Bisoli on Napoli’s Nikola Maksimović.

He scored his first Serie A goal with netting a long-range free-kick into the top corner from the left flank, which was the opening goal in an eventual 3–1 away defeat to Genoa.

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A strong, energetic, elegant, and creative, midfielder, with excellent vision and an ability to read the game, Tonali usually plays in a central or defensive midfield role as a deep-lying playmaker and shows maturity and character beyond his young age.

Dictating play for Brescia with his passing in midfield, he set up two goals and even scored two himself in his 19 appearances in Serie B during the 2017–18 season.

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Although naturally right-footed, he is known for his accurate long passing ability with either foot.

In addition to Pirlo, Tonali has also cited Steven Gerrard and Luka Modric as influences and has also compared his own playing style to that of Gennaro Gattuso.

In July 2019, he was named by UEFA as one of the 50 promising young players to watch for the 2019–20 season.

Inter, Juventus, and Barcelona were after him, but Tonali has never hidden his support for Milan and has always been vocal of his support for club legend Gennaro Gattuso. A letter was written by Tonali as a child surfaced on social media where he asks for a Milan shirt.

Brescia president Cellino said “We have received an offer in January from Barcelona for Tonali. Manchester United made a bid for him before Milan, but once Milan came forward the player went crazy and asked to join Milan because it’s the team he supported since he was a child.”

Right now, one of the most wanted midfielders in Europe is a part of Rossoneri.

In the last season, AC Milan have given the impression of making a comeback and they would wish to maintain that momentum in the new season as well.

Once upon a time, the midfield of AC Milan consisted of gems and jewels, and keeping that mind, Paolo Maldini wished to inject dynamism at the center of the park and surely, Tonali is someone who could fulfill that expectation.

In Brescia, he sat back in front of the defence and dictated the game from deep by forwarding quick balls, whereas the Italian coach Roberto Manchini exploited him as a box-to-box midfielder because since they already have a Regista in the form of Jorginho in the Azzurri setup.

In the AC Milan, Stefano Pioli usually uses the 4-2-3-1 formation which changes accordingly to 4-3-3, and in this formation, Tonali could be utilized as a pure Regista, which Milan would need to boost their midfield.

Ismael Bennacer, who performed the role of a Regista and holding midfielder in a double pivot, shone brightly with Franck Kessie last season, and it might leave Pioli to use the midfield option more smartly – a 4-5-1 formation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the lone striker and five in the midfield – Tonali lying deep along with Bennacar and Kessie, Ante Rebic on the wider area and Hakan Calhanogolu moving from wide to center, aiding Ibra.

The game would flow through Tonali.

He would be the initiator of the build-up play.

Once the ball is at his feet, Tonali quickly scans the pitch for his team-mates to try and gauge who is not being marked and could therefore generate a chance. He also can float in balls inside the box from wide areas. Tonali however being the Regista can mostly be seen occupying central areas of the pitch or occupying half-spaces between the opposition’s lines of defence.

Tonali can accelerate suddenly and link-up in the counterattacks during transitions and again, seen holding players off by shielding them and has a fair amount of physicality to show he has some brawn and not all brains.

Tonali’s main defensive strength lays in his unique ability to read the game and often the mind of the opponent. This gives him quite a number of opportunities to intercept passes and put his foot into tackles.

The 20-year-old does not dive into tackles but he does have a habit of giving fouls away in dangerous areas of the pitch, which is something to work on. His pro-active sense of defending is similar to Gattuso.

By the way, he could be deadly in set-pieces as well – serve the ball wickedly.

A distinguishing aspect of Pirlo’s passing was the unique body orientation that helped him angle in passes between defenders. Tonali has emulated some of this technique in his stride which has gained him comparisons to Pirlo and a lot of praise from the maestro himself, who even called him ‘more complete’.

Tonali would mature and shine in Milan and that is what everyone back in Italy expects.

 

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