The Anatomy of Zuniga’s New ContractBy: Neil | October 10th, 2013
Dave Taylor examines the importance of Juan Camilo Zuniga to Napoli, and why President Aurelio De Laurentiis fought so hard to keep the Colombian a Napoli player. Despite the long running saga, both parties are satisfied and Zuniga will continue to be an important player as Napoli competes for trophies.
Even fans with only the faintest knowledge of Italian football must know dealing with Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is not the easiest thing in the world, in fact lets not be shy here it must be a real pain. Confirmation of that can surely be testified by Zuniga’s agent/lawyer who lost patience with De Laurentiis in his haggling over Juan Zuniga’s contract extension. And although DeLa almost doubled his wages, he insisted on a massive release clause.
Our Commander in Chief has been stung on transfer clauses before and he wasn’t going to allow it to happen again. In the summer of 2012 the Partenopei were defenceless and could not stop Ezequiel Lavezzi’s exit to PSG after they met the price of the release clause in his contract. “Lavezzi’s agent very sneakily asked me for a release clause and as a novice, I fell for it,” admitted DeLa, the same DeLa who once threatened to chop the agent’s balls off if Lavezzi thought about leaving the club. He’s a boy isn’t he?
So what exactly is it that fooled one of Hollywood and football’s smartest operators? Well basically it was what is sometimes known as a buy-out clause. This is a fixed amount, previously agreed between the player and his club that a buying club has to give the seller, before the player and the new club can make music which subsequently means the selling club are then obligated to accept the bid. And although compulsory in Spain it’s not unilateral in Europe. It’s also a way for the clubs to show more or less how much they value one of their players.
When rumours emerged that that Cavani’s future was perhaps away from the San Paolo, De Laurentiis had him sign a new contract that included a minimum fee release clause of €63m. In December 2012 De Laurentiis said: “Cavani is not for sale, but we could let him go for €100m. Last summer I was offered 55million euros (approx £45m) to release him but I didn’t sell. Then in September we fixed his release clause. All things considered, buying him would cost 63m euros. This is not his actual value, but his value to me and he won’t leave for less.” The Pope is, indeed, a Catholic and a bear disappeared into the wood and, well, you know the rest.
Since then de Laurentiis has said he would not have sold star striker Edinson Cavani: “If it wasn’t for that clause, I wouldn’t have sold him,” he said. Some critics even complained saying Napoli was still a selling club. De Laurentiis insisted the clauses were not a symptom of the club wanting to sell and pointed out that the very high figures involved with those clauses showed that the club were keen to hang on to those players.
That seems to be the case with the latest Napoli contract extensions for Juan Zuniga. After a long hot summer of will he, won’t he, the Colombian signed a new contract that will keep him at Napoli until 2018. The first most fans knew about it was on DeLa’s Twitter page. “I’m glad to announce that Zuniga will stay with us for another five years,” he tweeted. “I always believed in him, Camilo and in Naples! Figures? These are what he deserves. During these years he worked in silence and humility and deserved this recognition.” He certainly has; the 27-year-old has been with the Partenopei since 2009 following an impressive season with Siena while capped 46 times by Colombia.
Starting in 2009-10 he was part of the club’s line-up 31 times, 15 starts, 7 subs and stayed on the bench 9 times. In 10-11 part of the club’s line-up 34 times,15 starts got substituted 12 times and stayed on the bench 7 times and was not part of the line-up due to injury 3 times. In 2011-12 he was part of the club’s line-up 35 times, 22 starts, substituted in 9 games and stayed on the bench 4 times while suspended twice. In 12-13 part of the club’s line-up 34 times, 30 starts, substituted twice and stayed on the bench twice and injured for three games and suspended for one. Zuniga has also shown an extreme kind of flexibility, playing most of the matches as a left wingback or, thanks to Mazzarri’s odd tactics, as a trequartista. He has only seen a small number of games as a right wing back/defender, which is his natural position and the one he plays every time for Colombia.
With a voracious agent and a contract set to expire next year it was beginning to look that he would leave the San Paolo. However, unlike those interminable Brazilian soap operas on Italian TV it had a happy ending. And after giving his word via his jumping on the spot in a pre-season friendly everybody is satisfied in Naples. Certainly Napoli fans were happy. He had promised them and answered them in their own language and kept his vow. After flirting with Juventus over the summer, although he publicly denies this, he had fallen out of favour with the tifosi. “I don’t want to be forced to leave Napoli at the end of my contract. These are not conditions I would like to live in. I feel that I ought to make the situation clear, seeing as people have invented some of my statements. Once again some words are in the papers that I never actually said.”
Against Galatasaray in a pre-season friendly at the San Paolo every time he touched the ball he was booed. However, in the 81st minute he scored a superb goal after a perfect through pass from Lorenzo Insigne. Collecting the ball he rounded the ‘keeper and slotted home the second of the 3-1 result on the night. No reaction from Zuniga, no celebration. Then the chant spilled down from the terraces like a waterfall after the monsoon: “Chi non salta e Juventino” – “Whoever doesn’t jump is a Juve fan.” Zuniga in his wisdom did just that in several different parts of the pitch, stopping every few yards, thinking again and jumping again. The fans jeers turned to cheers. A few days later he signed.
The Commander got actively involved, dealt with the agent and promised Juan more money than Juve, if he accepted the clubs term’s. The agent forced a few concessions out of Napoli, including a release clause. Naturally the Pres wanted it as high as possible while Zuniga’s lawyer the opposite. De La knew that after the Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani cases he had to be careful and although the amount is not known it was described as being more than that of Lavezzi’s, and as much as 35m euros, if not more. It is the well known DeLa motto if you leave you will cost the buying club a lot of money or in other words De La lives his life around that old English proverb of fair play: Get your retaliation in first. You make contact with your customer. Understand their needs. And then flog them something they could well do without.
Reports suggest that Zuniga will get €4m a year, almost twice what he was reportedly earning but there is no definite facts about this and it is also thought that this also includes bonuses. This is reported to be more than Hamsik earns and seemingly caused some resentment amongst the players but it is only media mischief. What we do know is that Higuain is the highest earner on €5.5m followed by Marekiaro then Zuniga. It is so because with bonuses Hamsik comes to €4.5 million, while Zuniga comes to 3.5m, touching maybe 4. Lots of money, but not more than Hamsik, then come the new Spaniards over 2.5m. Finally, there is Inler with 2.2m and then gradually all the others, who earn under two million and therefore fall under the last season’s salary cap.
A lot of the credit for this operation must go to DS Riccardo Bigon who smoothed out the friction between Zuniga’s lawyer Riccardo Calleri and DeLa. He also convinced the President that to lose the Colombian would be a big mistake, especially if he went to Juve. Bigon emphasized another important aspect of renewal of Zuniga’s contract. “The renewal of Zuniga’s contract highlights the fact that Napoli is a club capable of retaining important players who have requests from big clubs but also to be a destination for top players who choose our club for the rest of their careers,” but DeLa did keep Zuniga’s image rights. “Now all the image rights have to belong to me and anyone who doesn’t – won’t work with me.” As always DeLa gets the last words but for one I am glad Zuniga is staying.
And so is Zuniga: “I’m happy to have renewed my deal with this club,” said Juan. “I’m happy here and I consider the city of Naples my home. I want to keep doing well in order to pay back the faith of the club and the fans. It is not easy to read every day your name in the paper. I never said I want to leave Naples. Indeed, I feel Neapolitan inside, I arrived in this city four years ago and I immediately felt at home. It was an immediate feeling between me and Naples, and here I am fine. I’ve always had a good relationship with the fans. If I was booed they had their reasons. It was important for me to answer on the field and I think I succeeded, and they understood why I cheered against Galatasaray. Every time I wear the shirt of Napoli, I play with my soul, the fans know it and it will not be an isolated incident to ruin our relationship.”
words: Dave Taylor