To start the ball rolling for the next edition of the Copa Libertadores de América, the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL) have released their latest all-time league table of the best teams since the competition began. And thus, 2009 can end on a happier note for River Plate fans of a slightly idiotic bent. Because their side’s run in 2008 was enough – just – for them to overtake Uruguayan giants Peñarol, and move into first place in the all-time table.
The table doesn’t make allowances for the percentage of potential points won (although these are also listed in the final column), but instead merely counts up the total number of points won throughout the competition’s history. As a result, River, who’ve had more participations than any other Argentine club (29 to Boca Juniors’ 21), have a bit of an advantage right away.
Having been in four finals (1966, ’76, ’86 and ’96), River have played so many matches that, in spite of only winning the trophy twice (they were victorious in the last two of those four), they now sit four points above Peñarol, who’ve won 5 Copas, 14 above that side’s fierce Uruguayan rivals Nacional, who’ve won 3, and a full 110 above fourth-placed Boca, winners of 6 Copas. Independiente, who are the real most successful club in the tournament’s history, with 7 wins, are down in 13th of the overall standings.
Other Argentine sides in the table: Vélez Sársfield (1 Copa) are 27th; Estudiantes de La Plata (3 Copas) 28th; Rosario Central 30th; San Lorenzo 33rd; Racing (1 Copa) 39th; Newell’s Old Boys 44th; Argentinos 69th (and have the distinction of being the lowest-placed side to have won the Copa, once); Banfield 78th; Huracán 90th; Ferro Carril Oeste 91st; Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata 102nd; Lanús 109th; Arsenal 116th; Colón de Santa Fe 125th, and Quilmes 126th.
Re-arranging the table to give priority to the sides who’ve won the highest percentage of the available points (three per win, one per draw, regardless of whether the match was knockout or not) would put Paysandú of Brazil, who took part in the 2003 Copa, playing eight matches, at the top of the standings – they won 17 points from a possible 24, or 70.83% (and are, incidentally, the only club from the north of Brazil to have played in the competition). Now, who says such tables are silly?