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De Nicola: Zuniga should return soon, Insigne improving

The chief of Napoli's medical staff had some good news to share with fans today.

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Napoli have a couple vitally important players out injured right now, but Napoli's medical chief Alfonso De Nicola has some encouraging news for fans after speaking to Radio Kiss Kiss on his birthday (Happy birthday, Alfonso!).

Camilo Zuniga, out since mid-October and subject to recent transfer speculation, is apparently improving in both fitness and spirits recently. "We are satisfied," De Nicola told the radio hosts, "finally seeing [Zuniga] happier, and this means that everything is going well." Some reports in the last day or so have Zuniga returning within in the next few weeks, so hopefully we'll be seeing that happiness sooner rather than later.

The Colombian suffered yet another recurrence of injury to his right knee, something that has plagued him for the entirety of his Napoli career. It's past the point now where Napoli can reasonably rely on him to be consistently available, and despite his obvious quality when healthy, it should be surprising if they move him on this summer. In the meantime, though, once he's playing again Zuniga can serve an important role for helping Napoli get down the stretch of the season, and then his future can be decided from there.

As for Lorenzo Insigne, the news sounded positive. Many have been speculating that Insigne could be back in March or even February, and while De Nicola seemed happy with how Insigne has recovered so far, he did provide one note of caution: "There is need, after [an injury like this], to really prepare [to return to the pitch], and make sure there are no [setbacks]."

Avoiding setbacks is the most important thing when dealing with something like an ACL tear, as they can take many forms and cost a player a lot of time. Just as Lucas Leiva, a midfielder often linked to a Napoli move over the last year, who has taken nearly three years to get almost back to the quality he had shown before his own ACL tear. Several muscle issues and ligament sprains cost him significant playing time over the first 18 months of his recovery, and even when he was relatively healthy in that time, it was clear he wasn't back up to speed yet. Helping Insigne avoid that plight will be job number one for Napoli's medical staff over the coming months, no matter when Insigne steps back on the pitch.

Still, despite potential long-term concerns for both players, in the short run this news is only good. The sooner Napoli's squad gets back to full strength, the better chances they have in finding success at finishing second and having positive Europa League and Coppa Italia campaigns