Shanghai (AFP) – Fabio Cannavaro has resigned as coach of Tianjin Quanjian, the club announced Monday, just days after steering them to an AFC Champions League berth and with rumours swirling he will return to seven-time Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
The Italian World Cup winner, who engineered the club’s promotion to the Chinese Super League (CSL) last year and a third-place finish this year, will be succeeded by former Portuguese international Paulo Sousa, the club said.
A brief statement by Tianjin said Cannavaro’s departure came after “friendly discussions” with the club, which praised the coach for his successful time at the helm.
Neither Tianjin nor Cannavaro gave any immediate indication of his plans, but the 44-year-old Italian, considered one of the greatest defenders in the history of the sport, has been linked to a possible move back to Guangzhou Evergrande.
Cannavaro coached Guangzhou briefly in 2014-2015 and the job is now open again after Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari confirmed at the weekend that he was leaving after wrapping up the club’s seventh straight CSL title.
“It hurts me to leave Guangzhou, this group, but that’s life,” Scolari, 68, told reporters, adding that he may return with another Chinese club.
“We all came out of this happy: me, Guangzhou, the players, and I hope I didn’t disappoint you,” he said in a video clip uploaded to Chinese social media.
“I don’t know if I will return to China as a manager. I will start thinking about the future from today. I haven’t decided anything, but from now, as I finish up everything with Guangzhou, I will start thinking about my future.”
Scolari’s side were beaten in the season’s final game on Saturday by Cannavaro’s Tianjin team.
Tianjin’s 2-1 victory, coupled with a loss by Hebei China Fortune, propelled them into third place in the CSL, meaning they will contest the AFC Champions League playoffs next season.
Evergrande finished the season six points clear of Andre Villas-Boas’s second-placed Shanghai SIPG.
Sousa, a defensive midfielder for such iconic European teams as Benfica, Inter Milan and Juventus, has spent more than a decade as a coach, most recently with Serie A side Fiorentina.
Tianjin said it “fully hopes that Mr. Paulo Sousa can lead Tianjin FC to new heights in the new season and bring joy to football fans”.