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Naldo becomes the Bundesliga's joint-record Brazilian appearance holder

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On 5 August 2005, Naldo made his first Bundesliga appearance in the colours of Werder Bremen. Some 12-and-a-half-years later, following stints at Wolfsburg and now Schalke - a special German journey that has yielded several titles and even more decisive goals - the colossal 6'6" centre-back is enjoying something of a second coming.

"Naldo is a leader. He lives for the values of this club and impresses on the pitch. Inside the dressing-room he is highly trusted and respected by his teammates because of his positive and constructive attitude.” The words of Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel were echoed across the Royal Blue family after the southern Brazil-born star recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at the Veltins Arena until he will be almost 37. And the decorated defender has no intention of stopping there.

"I hope to be able to play for Schalke even longer than 2019, but whatever the case, I’m not thinking about quitting yet,” he told German publicationBildrecently. “Personally, I feel very good; I’m pleased that I can contribute to [our recent] success,” the player added in words published on the club's official website.

Even by Naldo’s previously high goalscoring exploits, 2017/18 has been a phenomenal campaign to date for the one-time Juventude player. He scored 36 goals across all competitions in his seven seasons at 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 former Brazil international’s four Bundesliga goals this term (making him Schalke's joint-second top scorer!), two in particular have been crucial. A strike five minutes into injury time against Eintracht Frankfurt that earned the Royal Blues a 2-2 draw on Matchday 17 could have been the highlight.

Yet that came earlier, in the Revierderby, when Naldo’s header four minutes into stoppage time helped Schalke to earn a 4-4 draw against rivals Borussia Dortmund after Domenico Tedesco’s side had trailed 4-0 at the Signal Iduna Park. Following that fantastic feat, goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann suggested that the birth rate in Gelsenkirchen would rise significantly nine months after the memorable match, adding that the region was set for a significant amount of new-borns being christened ‘Naldo’.

“I laughed very hard after I heard that,” the Brazilian said, adding, “But why not? I would definitely be happy about many little Naldos named after me!”

Voted Schalke’s Player of the Month for November by the club’s fans, Naldo is excelling under 32-year-old Tedesco, the man the centre-back recently described as, “the best coach I have ever had.” An unfortunate, and highly uncharacteristic slip-up during the 3-1 Matchday 18 loss against RB Leipzig led – in part – to Die Knappen’s 13-game unbeaten run coming to an end.

“I was angry with myself,” Naldo responded after he gave possession away in the build-up to Leipzig going 2-1 ahead. Yet his teammates were having none of it. “He is our rock and [any criticism] is completely undeserved, he played well [and] scored the goal that made it 1-1,” captain Fährmann insisted afterward.

Expect a resilient response from a player who once overcame two severe, career-threatening knee injuries while at Bremen. A former DFB Cup winner at the Green-Whites – where he also reached the 2009 UEFA Cup final – and Wolfsburg, Naldo’s heroics this term have Schalke dreaming of titles. With the Royal Blues currently third in the Bundesliga standings and into the last eight of the DFB Cup – where they will face the Wolves – Naldo believes a return to the national team for this summer’s FIFA World Cup is not out of the question.



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