Guangzhou Evergrande players and staff tossed an emotional Luiz Felipe Scolari in the air and hailed the Brazilian coach after they sealed their seventh straight Chinese Super League title in what is expected to be his final season in charge.
Scolari's men thrashed Guizhou Zhicheng 5-1 at home on Sunday to win the Chinese Super League (CSL) with two games to spare, their seventh trophy under the former Brazil, Portugal and Chelsea coach.
The 68-year-old's contract expires at the end of the season and his anticipated departure signals the end of a successful two-year stint that saw Evergrande cement their place as the best in China -- despite eschewing the lavish spending of rival teams this year.
Scolari was banned from the bench on Sunday but, wearing a red Evergrande T-shirt, he took to the Tianhe Stadium pitch afterwards and was mobbed by his players and team officials, who hoisted him skywards.
"All fans supporting Evergrande should thank him for winning seven titles in two-and-a-half years," the Oriental Sports Daily quoted assistant coach Paulo Turra as saying.
Guangzhou's nearest challengers, Shanghai SIPG, are a distant nine points behind despite splashing out on the likes of Asian-record signing Oscar for 60 million euros from Chelsea.
Scolari also lost key midfielder Paulinho, who moved to Barcelona in August, and Turra said: "Now is different from the past. The meaning of champion is quite different from what it was in the past."
There has been no official announcement on Scolari's future, but Chinese media say the well-travelled coach is expected to depart, with the decorated Italian Carlo Ancelotti and Thomas Tuchel, most recently with Borussia Dortmund, both linked with the post.
Scolari's fellow Brazilian Turra said the veteran coach had put Evergrande on a par with leading clubs around the world.
"Firstly, we must pay tribute to the boss and the club," Turra said. "We followed the mode of European professional clubs.
"Secondly, we have an excellent team."