Inside Club Atletico River Plate: The potential Sunderland AFC ‘partner club’ eyed by Juan Sartori

For as long as Juan Sartori has been on the scene, there has been talk of Sunderland forging closer ties with Uruguay.
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And while no concrete links have yet to be formed, with no South American players yet to arrive on Wearside, talk of Sartori and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ attempts to acquire a majority shareholding in the club could see the plans come back to the fore.

Indeed, reports from France have suggested that the pair have already identified Club Atletico River Plate as a potential partner club.

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But what do we know about the club, based in Sartori’s homeland?

Inside Club Atletico River Plate: The potential Sunderland AFC ‘partner club’ eyed by Juan SartoriInside Club Atletico River Plate: The potential Sunderland AFC ‘partner club’ eyed by Juan Sartori
Inside Club Atletico River Plate: The potential Sunderland AFC ‘partner club’ eyed by Juan Sartori

We take a look at their history, current standing, and what a partnership could mean for Sunderland:

Who are they?

Not to be confused with the Argentinian side of the same name, Club Atletico River Plate play in the top flight of Uruguayan football and are based in the capital, Montevideo - Sartori’s hometown.

They were founded in 1932 and spent much of their history in the lower reaches of the Uruguayan pyramid, the Segunda Division (second tier) on six occasions - the most recent of which came in 2004.

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River Plate have since gone on to become regulars in the Primera Division in recent years, and finished as high as second in 2008.

In recent years, the club have consistently finished in and around the top six and have qualified for the prestigious Copa Libertadores in 2016.

Last season, the club finished 7th in the Primera Division with a squad nearly entirely consisting of homegrown, Uruguayan talent.

Who currently owns them?

The full ownership structure of River Plate is unclear, but their current chairman is Willie Tucci - a local businessman.

What has been said about Sartori and Louis-Dreyfus’ interest in River Plate?

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L’Equipe claimed that the duo were keen to purchase the Uruguayan side in addition to taking a majority stake in Sunderland.

This is little surprise, with Sartori having previously discussed his desire to create a multi-club ownership group - similar to that of Manchester City’s ‘City Football Group’.

Speaking in May of this year, the 39-year-old said: “I would love for Sunderland to have an affiliated club in Uruguay.

“I studied a number of Uruguayan clubs to be able to do it, but due to lack of time I could not complete that project.

“I will surely end up doing it.”

Why has this club been targeted by Sartori and Louis-Dreyfus?

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While we’re sure the fact River Plate play in red and white stripes is a tick in their favour, it’s far from the sole reason they have been eyed.

It is perhaps little surprise that Sartori wants to invest in a club in Uruguay - and in his home town, at that.

Politically, it would perhaps look good for the senator to be bringing in investment to his community - and Sartori has previously discussed how he would be keen to support clubs in Uruguay who may not have major financial backing.

“Taking advantage of the example of the City group, it would be necessary to try to attract more investing clubs for Uruguayan football,” he explained.

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“So that four or five teams, which are not the big ones, but the ones that have difficulties reaching the end of each month and have a long history and good support.”

River Plate certainly have a long history and are well-backed, despite a modestly-sized stadium.

And away from any potential political reasons, there are naturally some major sporting merits to partnering Sunderland with an overseas club.

There are opportunities to benefit from economies of scale when it comes to sharing resources - such as scouting networks, for example.

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But there can also be more tangible crossover effects, such as players moving between clubs - although this is far trickier to execute in practice than in theory.

Nonetheless, Sartori knows there is untapped talent in Uruguay.

"We have an inexplicable talent, who knows football knows that, it is really impressive the number of players, global talents, who leave our country of three million inhabitants. It is statistically incredible, but it is reality," he said earlier this year.

As they - hopefully - rise the leagues, a partnership with a club renowned for developing young players could certainly benefit Sunderland and afford them easier access to markets which other clubs may struggle to enter.

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River Plate undoubtedly do that, which would be a key merit to any potential partnership.

Are they the only club to be eyed by Sartori?

No, Sartori has previously been linked with other Uruguayan clubs.

Earlier this year, it was claimed that his advisors had held talks with second tier side IASA.

Miguel Gimenez, the club’s president, said earlier this summer: “ I had a meeting before all this coronavirus happened with some of Juan Sartori’s advisors who had the intention of seeing the situation of IASA.

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“It was the only thing that was talked about, but we are open to continue talking.”

Interestingly, IASA have plenty in common with River Plate.

Both clubs are based in Montevideo, both have similar sized stadiums and they too place a great deal of focus on producing young players.

That gives some form of indication as to the kind of club that Sartori is looking to partner with Sunderland, although his focus now seems to have turned to River Plate.

The first priority for the Uruguayan and associate Louis-Dreyfus, though, is wrapping-up the deal for the Black Cats.

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