Cologne – VfL Wolfsburg defender Naldo was one of the pillars of the team that finished as Bundesliga runners-up and DFB Cup winners in 2014/15, as well as lifting the 2015 German Supercup at the start of August with victory over FC Bayern München.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the 32-year-old Brazilian – who is a naturalised German citizen – talks about the Wolves’ start to the season, what they can learn from Bayern and what he expects from Friday’s game against FC Schalke 04.
bundesliga.com: Naldo, by winning the Supercup Wolfsburg again showed that Bayern are not invincible. The Wolves also reached the second round of the DFB Cup and have four points from the first two games in the Bundesliga, but there is still a sense that the team is not satisfied…
Naldo: You’re not wrong. Our start with four points from two matches isn’t too bad, especially when you consider we only had six points after the first five outings last season. But we know we can do better than we did in the first hour in Cologne. Our heads weren’t in the game then. They were very aggressive and we didn’t really react to that. We have to do better than that.
bundesliga.com: After last season Wolfsburg were widely considered to be Bayern’s main challengers this season. Have you been surprised at Borussia Dortmund’s form so far?
Naldo: No, even last season I said that Dortmund would emerge from their crisis even stronger. They’ve got so much quality. The only surprising thing is that they didn’t always show that quality last term. BVB will be up near the top this year, just like us hopefully.
bundesliga.com: A few weeks ago you said that Wolfsburg needed to adopt the so-called “Bayern gene” and improve their will to win even in training…
bundesliga.com: So do you think so far Wolfsburg have been relying too much on individual quality and are therefore lacking the last couple of per cent?
Naldo: No. I think it’s more a case of the whole team not yet being where we want to be, or where we were last season. We need to work on our challenges and also on playing better and quicker football. We’re not yet as compact as we were last season. Sometimes at the beginning of a new campaign you just need to find your rhythm again. On top of that we have to realise that expectations have increased. Bayern are used to dealing with that but we still have to learn how to cope. It’s a constant process.
bundesliga.com: Friday’s game against Schalke is Wolfsburg’s last before the summer transfer window closes. In that match you’ll meet a fellow Brazilian on the opposing team: Junior Caicara. How much did you know about him before he moved to the Royal Blues?
Naldo: I don’t know him personally but I’ve already heard lots of things about him. He’s a very good player who always gives absolutely everything. We’ll need to be wary of him and of the other Schalke players because they’re a good team and made our lives very difficult last season when we drew 1-1.
bundesliga.com: Brazil’s national team coach is also making life difficult for you: he hasn’t called you up for the forthcoming international matches…
Naldo: That’s right and to be honest I don’t really understand why I wasn’t selected after scoring seven goals in what was perhaps the best season of my career. But I won’t let my head hang. I’m just focusing on Wolfsburg now and trying to have another good season with the team. Maybe I’ll get called up some day.
Naldo was speaking to Andreas Kötter