With a record number of Argentinian league championships to their credit, River Plate can be rightly considered as one of Argentina
's top domestic teams and, amongst futbol
supporters from around the world, possibly that nation's best known club side.
The club was formed in 1901 as Club Atlético River Plate by an English coal merchant named Wilson and originally played in the Dársena Sur barrios of Buenos Aires
. Like many of the sides that would eventually come to dominate the Argentinian game, River Plate wasted little time in establishing themselves as one of the country's dominant sides. In 1908 the side was promoted for the first time in their history to the first division of the Argentine league and the following year finished as runners-up to the eventual champions, Alumni. The side would finish second on two further occasions in 1917 and 1918 before they eventually won the first of their twenty-nine titles in 1920 beating Racing Club to the title by two points.
The 1920 championship success would be the only title success the club would have prior to the league's change in 1934 from amateur to professional. However, once the league had made the switch, the early years of the new league witnessed River Plate, together with Boca Juniors
and Independiente, becoming the dominant sides in the competition; with sixteen of the first eighteen league titles shared between the three sides. For their part, River Plate took seven of the titles, while finishing as runners-up on a further five occasions. Four of those titles came in the 1940s from a side that many River Plate fans consider to have been the finest to wear their famous red and white shirts. Such was the formidable nature of that side that its forward line of Muñoz, Gallo, Pedernera, Labruna and Loustau was famously named by Argentinian fans as La Maquina (the machine), in recognition of their relentless ability to reduce opposition defenses to little more than spectators.
The domination of the club endured well into the 1950s. Their tally of championship titles was further added to in 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1957, securing their position as the country's preeminent club side. Towards the end of the decade the club embarked on its first ever tour outside of South America when they travelled to Europe
to play against fourteen of the top European sides. Such was their ability that despite the long journey and their relative lack of international experience, the Argentinians returned home having lost just a single match on the tour, with their reputation as one of the world's top sides more than secure.
Having dominated the Argentinian game for the past two decades, the next twenty years were not to prove so rewarding with the championship remaining an elusive prize until the arrival of Angel Lebruna as coach in the mid 1970s. Despite the barren years, the club did not exactly fade away into obscurity, finishing as runners-up in the league seven times, while in 1966 the made it to the finals of the Copa Libertadores (the South American club championship competition), eventually losing to Peñarol of Uruguay
The appointment of Lebruna, however, returned the side to its traditional winning ways. After an eighteen year gap, the title returned to the "Monumental" with River Plate finishing four points clear of Huracán, celebrating their fourteenth league title. Once the lack of success had been broken, the club's success returned with a vengeance. Further league championships were lifted in 1979, 1980 and 1986 to set the club up for its first success in the international club competitions that their compatriots from Boca Juniors
and Independiente had done so well in during River Plate's empty years of the 1960s and 70s. In 1986, they lifted the Copa Libertadores for the first time in their history, beating the Colombia
n side América de Cali by the score of 3-1 on aggregate.
The side of the mid-eighties, while not considered as great as that of forty years earlier, was still a very good side. As well as lifting the Copa Libertadores, 1986 saw River Plate travelling to Tokyo to take on Europe's top side in the World Club Championships, where a twenty-eighth minute goal from Alzamendi was enough to defeat the challenge of Steaua Bucharest to become the world's top side for that year. The success of the club in the major cup competitions continued into the following season, when as reigning holders of the Copa Libertadores, they played in the Copa Inter América. Over two legs, River Plate met the Costa Rican side LD Alajuelense and lifted the trophy with a three-nil home win over the Central American side, to join Independiente and Boca Juniors as fellow Argentinian winners of the trophy.
The success of the 1980s continued well into the 1990s. The Argentinian league title was captured on a further three occasions, with successes in 1990, 1992 (Apertura), 1994 (Apertura), 1995 (Apertura), 1997 (Apertura), 1997 (Clausura), as well as titles the past two seasons, while in 1996 they lifted the Copa Libertadores for the second time in their history.