GUANGZHOU (AFP) - Luiz Felipe Scolari thanked the Guangzhou Evergrande players and fans on Saturday after what is expected to be his final game in charge at the freshly-crowned Chinese Super League (CSL) champions.
The 68-year-old was not on the bench for the dead-rubber 2-1 home defeat by Tianjin Quanjian because of suspension, but the decorated Brazilian coach emerged on the pitch afterwards to see his side lift the CSL trophy.
Guangzhou last month wrapped up a seventh CSL title on the bounce, with two games to spare, and Scolari told the Tianhe Stadium via microphone on Saturday: "First of all, thanks to all of you for your support and company along the way.
"Thank you Guangzhou Evergrande for bringing me to China and to Guangzhou, where I spent two-and-a-half years' sweet time with you together."
Turning to his triumphant squad and with a sweep of his arm, the former Brazil and Portugal national coach added: "Finally, I sincerely thank these young men in front of me, you are the best."
Guangzhou have kept tight-lipped amid widespread Chinese media reports that Scolari had chosen not to renew his contract in southern China. Reports say Italian World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro could be the man to replace Scolari.
Ironically, it was Cannavaro's Tianjin who made it a losing finish to Scolari's reign.
The final-day victory for Tianjin, coupled with defeat for Hebei China Fortune, propelled them into a third-place CSL finish and means they will contest the AFC Champions League play-offs next season.
Cannavaro's men went ahead on 18 minutes when Anthony Modeste punished poor marking to fire in from close range with a first-time half volley.
It was the French predator's seventh goal since arriving from Cologne in Germany in the summer mid-season transfer window.
It was a game of few chances and with the league title in the bag for the hosts it had the feel of an exhibition game.
There was a flare-up six minutes from half-time when Guangzhou's Brazilian forward Alan nudged Wang Yongpo off the ball and the tattooed Tianjin midfielder comically tumbled to the floor.
He was soon up and Singaporean referee Muhammad Jahari, one of the foreign officials drafted in late in the CSL season to improve the standard of Chinese officiating, waved both players away.
On the hour Tianjin made it 2-0 when Sun Ke slotted into an empty net from the edge of the six-yard box as the home defence went for a walkabout.
Cannavaro implored his side to keep pushing for more goals, but it was the champions who were to score minutes later, defender Feng Xiaoting nodding in unmarked from close range to set up a tight finish.
Guangzhou finished the season six points clear of Andre Villas-Boas' Shanghai SIPG in second.
Tianjin jumped into third over Hebei after Manuel Pellegrini's side went down 5-4 in a thriller away at Shandong Luneng.
Ezequiel Lavezzi, the Argentinian striker, scored a hat-trick for Hebei, but so did Shandong's Diego Tardelli.
The Brazilian international's third, a penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage time, was the winner.
SIPG, who will contest the FA Cup final against local rivals Shanghai Shenhua over two legs in November, finished second despite losing 3-2 at home to Fabio Capello's Jiangsu Suning.