Argentina: Reality bites as River Plate drop into second tier (+video)
So the unthinkable has happened in Argentina as record champions River Plate, who have won the domestic league on 33 occasions, finally face up to the grim reality of second division football next season. This is because River was forced to meet Belgrano de Cordoba in a two match promotion/relegation play-off, which they lost 3-1 on aggregate, having ended the 2010-11 season with the fourth worst average points record over the last three seasons.
The beginning of River’s malaise can be traced back to the 2008-09 Torneo Apertura in which los Millonarios finished rock bottom of the twenty team championship, chalking up just two wins from 19 games while their arch-rivals Boca Juniors were celebrating the title. At that moment River were far from worried about relegation as their average at the time was comfortable having won the 2008 Clausura title as well as having enjoyed a couple of top four finishes in the previous three seasons.
Since then however the only consistency that River have ‘enjoyed’ has been their inconsistency. As well as that 20th place finish in the 2008-09 Apertura River have struggled to finish highly in the table, despite having had some quality in the side such as Radamel Falcao, Nelson Rivas and Alexis Sanchez (albeit on loan). Over the last six championships their end of tournament positions were:
2008-09 Apertura: 20th
2008-09 Clausura: 8th
2009-10 Apertura: 14th
2009-10 Clausura: 13th
2010-11 Apertura: 4th
2010-11 Clausura: 9th
Over the last three seasons there has been much upheaval at River Plate. Just like most other clubs in the league River are in heavy debt and have to sell their best players virtually every season in a bid to balance the books. Also it is a cruel twist of fate for club president Daniel Passarella, a legend at El Monumental having previously served River as a player and coach, that the club’s demise should’ve come under his watch. He was narrowly elected as club president in December 2009 and has witnessed the club’s plight worsen to such a sorry state in his 18 months in charge.
SEE BELGRANO (2) v RIVER (0) FIRST LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
The irony about River’s demotion is that the averages system currently used to decide relegation was designed to help big clubs survive on the back of having one bad season. Had a more conventional round-robin system been in use and the results of the 2010-11 Apertura and Clausura championships were added together, River would’ve finished in a much more respectable 6th place this season. If the same method applied in the previous two seasons River would still have survived as they would’ve finished in 15th place in both 2008-09 and 2009-10. Some cynics might suggest that when River Plate are back in la Primera then the administrators might change the rules accordingly.
Whatever happens River’s proud record of having never been relegated has now gone with only arch-rivals Boca Juniors and Independiente of Avellaneda maintaining such a fine record. Instead of playing against those particular giants next season, River will now have to get used to facing off against the likes of Boca Unidos and Independiente Rivadavia in the “Nacional B” division next season.
SEE RIVER (1) v BELGRANO (1) SECOND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE: