His twelfth season in the Bundesliga could not have gone better. The Brazilian defender played every single minute of 2017/18 – at 35. Yes. 35 – while only seven players in the entire league won more individual duels as Schalke finished with the third-best defence in the top flight.
Naldo also provided for the Royal Blues at the other end of the pitch, with seven goals matching his joint-best total in the Bundesliga, and making him the top-scoring defender in the league during the campaign. Now, having helped Schalke to a second-place finish last season, Naldo knows he can go again.
"My goal was to qualify for the Champions League, we did that, and I would be crazy if I missed it,” Naldo told German sports magazine Kicker. "I felt very well, but I’m at an age now where one has to pay close attention to his body both mentally, but especially physically.
“I believe I can play for two or even three years in the Bundesliga, if I continue to take good care of my body.”
The only trouble Naldo would have had with his body during Schalke’s outstanding season was injuring himself during celebrations, especially after the key goals he scored against Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt. Sadly, his performances didn’t do enough to earn him a spot in Brazil’s 2018 FIFA World Cup squad – for whom the last of his four caps came in 2007.
Watch: Borussia Dortmund 4-4 Schalke and Naldo's incredible equaliser!
"When I consider how the second half of the Bundesliga, one of the strongest leagues in the world, went personally for me, I come to the conclusion that maybe my age was decisive in missing a call-up,” Naldo said. “I would have been very happy to be nominated, but also from afar, I kept my fingers crossed without resentment for my countrymen."
Looking ahead, Naldo – who will turn 36 in September – knows that Schalke will be one of the teams to beat in the Bundesliga’s upcoming 2018/19 season. Under coach Domenico Tedesco the club have re-emerged as a challenger at the top of the table, and Naldo says that an already-improved Royal Blue squad can be believed in once again.
"The league is looking at us more and more,” Naldo explained. “The pressure is high, but we can’t consider it a burden under any circumstances. We have a strong team spirit and we have strengthened ourselves very well, our squad has improved."
After playing all 34 Bundesliga matches of a season for the first time in his career at 35, Naldo has set the bar on his standard of performance so high that it will be remarkable if he is able to repeat the campaign just gone. But rest assured, the former Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg man won’t be going into retirement quietly, or at any time soon.