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Eddie Howe has admitted Sandro Tonali’s absence has harmed Newcastle’s bid for a second season of Champions League football.

The 23-year-old Italy international, who joined the Magpies in a £55million switch from AC Milan last summer, is serving a 10-month worldwide suspension for breaching betting rules in his native country, but avoided an extension on Thursday when the Football Association handed him a suspended ban for similar offences.

As it stands, Tonali, who had made just 12 appearances for his new club when the initial sanction was imposed, will be free to return to action at the end of August and while that will come as a boost to head coach Howe, he knows how costly the absence of his big-money summer acquisition has been.

Asked what the club had missed, he said: “His technical ability, his ability to play different positions in a season where you’re stretched by injuries. Any player that is versatile is hugely important.

“He would have been a big, big player for us. He would have driven us to get some key results. The players have felt his loss as well. That has been a negative for the players to see him train and then not be able to play.”

Tonali has used his enforced exile to acclimatise to life in England on and off the pitch in what has been a hugely difficult episode in his career.

Indeed, Howe, who takes his side to relegation-threatened Burnley on Saturday scrapping for a top-six finish, is confident the player might one day be able to take positives from the hiatus.

Asked if the Italian will feel like a new signing on his return, he said: “Without a doubt. It will be a huge thing for us.

“It’s been a huge frustration to have a top quality player that you can’t use. I know what he can do and the difference he’ll have made this year, but it wasn’t to be.

“But I think for us and for him from this situation, good comes of it, that he’s able to learn and develop to the English style and ultimately it could be something that he looks back on in a few years’ time and goes, ‘Actually, you know what? That helped me settle into England.”

Tonali, who admitted the 50 charges levelled at him by the FA, as he had done in response to those brought by their Italian counterparts, took a voluntary and sizeable pay cut after the original ban was imposed, a move Howe said reflected his guilt at the situation in which he had left his employers.

He said: “It was something he wanted to do. He felt the guilt and he felt that joining a new club, that was something he wanted, to show the club in good faith that he was sorry and he was determined to put it behind him and try to learn from it.

“So all really good signs, I think, for the future for us that we’ve got a very good human being in the football club and someone that’s keen now to put it behind him and try to show all the good that he can do for Newcastle United.”