Out since October with a persistent knee injury, it's sometimes easy to forget that Camilo Zuniga is even still a Napoli player. Every once in awhile a "returned to training, back in a few weeks" story pops up, but then he disappears from training again and nothing is heard for weeks.
Initially thought to be out just six weeks after a mid-October knee surgery, Zuniga has now been out for five months. He's signed a new contract with the club while recuperating, which is good since it was up at the end of this year, but given the painful lack of defensive depth at the fullback spots, Zuniga has been badly missed while he's been gone.
Despite his "mysterious", as Rafa Benitez recently called it, knee injury that's kept him off the pitch, a near-constant stream of rumors linking him to a summer move to Barcelona have yet to relent. At first they were borne of a rumored €12 million release clause specifically for the Catalan giants in his new deal, but those rumors were fairly quickly rubbished. Now it's just the typical "Barça wants a good player" guff that too many clubs have to put up with when it comes to their good players.
The thing is, it's hard to see why Barcelona would want him. While Dani Alves' negotiations for a new contract have reportedly not gone well, they still have an excellent young right back in Martin Montoya ready to step up and take the starting job. Montoya's contract is up at the end of this season, but given the significant international interest in him, you'd have to imagine that if he were leaving Barça, he would have signed a pre-contract already.
Zuniga can play left back as well, but Jordi Alba is one of the best left backs on the planet, and his backup Adriano is nothing to shake a stick at either. Unless Barcelona are expecting a large sell-off of wide defenders this summer, it really doesn't make much sense for them to go after the Colombian international. He'd be nothing more than a backup, and he has a shot at starting in Napoli's own Champions League campaign next season if Christian Maggio leaves as has been occasionally rumored in recent months.
You can't even chalk this up to his agent stumping for a new contract because, well, Zuniga already has one. The whole thing is just so bizarre, made even more so by the fact that he hasn't played since the rumors started. Generally speaking if you're a club interested in a player, you want them to be healthy and playing so you can evaluate them, not sitting out way longer than anticipated with a knee injury that just wont get right.
Hopefully before too much longer we can put this mess behind us. Zuniga is signed through 2018, and can hopefully be consistently healthy for most of that contract. He's an important part of Napoli's defense, and his presence and energy on the pitch have been missed in his absence. Get well soon, Camilo.