Schalke’s Naldo: MD20’s Man of the Matchday
Not only did the 35-year-old score the opening goal at the Mercedes-Benz Arena – his sixth of the campaign, making him Schalke’s second-top scorer and the highest-scoring defender in this season’s Bundesliga no less – he also overtook Ze Roberto’s record as the Brazilian with the most appearances in the German top flight (337).
Watch: Naldo reacts to his milestone Bundesliga outing against Stuttgart
“It’s a great day for me,” Naldo said after another exemplary shift at the office. “We won and kept a clean sheet. It’s an honour for me to overtake Ze Roberto as the Bundesliga’s record Brazilian appearance-maker. It shows that I’m always there to support my team.”
Even by Naldo’s previously high goalscoring exploits, 2017/18 has been a phenomenal campaign for the one-time Juventude player. He netted 36 goals across all competitions in his seven seasons at Werder Bremen, and managed 20 in four years at Wolfsburg. His combined assist total at both clubs was 19; and all of this from a central defender.
Of the two-time DFB Cup winner’s six Bundesliga goals this term, two in particular have been crucial: his strike five minutes into injury time on Matchday 17, which earned the Royal Blues a 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, and his 94th-minute leveller away to arch local rivals Borussia Dortmund three weeks earlier.
Watch: Watch Naldo blow the roof off the Signal Iduna Park
Following that fantastic feat in the mother of all Revierderbies – Schalke trailed Dortmund 4-0 after 25 minutes – goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann suggested that the birth rate would rise significantly in Gelsenkirchen, adding that the region was set for a significant number of fledging Schalke aficionados being christened ‘Naldo’.
“I laughed very hard after I heard that,” Die Knappen‘s veteran muse responded. “But why not? I would definitely be happy about many little Naldos named after me!”
After 13-plus years of exemplary performances in the Bundesliga – and many more to come with the defender having recently signed a deal to keep him at Schalke until he will be almost 37 – Naldo’s second coming has the Royal Blues purring.
Domenico Tedesco’s side are flying high in the Bundesliga standings and have a DFB Cup quarter-final against Wolfsburg to look forward to. For Naldo, there is also the little matter of a return to the national team for this summer’s FIFA World Cup.
“I’m ready if Brazil call; I’m hopeful as one of four places in central defence is still up for grabs,” the player who has earned four caps with the Selecao said. “I play for Schalke, a very big club, and we are successful – our games are regularly seen in Brazil so my dream of returning to the national team continues.”
That dream already appears to be close to coming true, with Brazil coach Tite confirming recently that he is observing Naldo with a view to taking him to the World Cup in Russia.