Real Sociedad de Fútbol, S.A.D., more commonly referred to as Real Sociedad or La Real, is a Spanish sports club in the city of San Sebastián, Basque Country, founded on 7 September 1909. It plays its home matches at the Anoeta Stadium. Real Sociedad won the Liga title in 1980–81 and 1981–82, and last finished runner-up in 2002–03. The club has also won the Copa del Rey twice, in 1909 and 1987. It contests the Basque derby against rivals Athletic Bilbao. Real Sociedad was a founder member of La Liga in 1929; its longest spell in the top flight was for 40 seasons, from 1967 to 2007.
Traditionally the club followed a policy (similar to that of its rival Athletic) of signing only Basque players, before signing the Republic of Ireland forward John Aldridge in 1989. While a strong Basque contingent has been retained among its players, nowadays both non-Basque Spaniards and foreign players are represented at the club. Its youth section subsequent to the all-Basque era has still been very successful in developing internationally renowned players, such as World Cup winners Xabi Alonso and Antoine Griezmann.
The club has competed in the UEFA Champions League twice. In the 2003–04 season, the club progressed to the round of 16 before losing to Lyon.
Aside from football, Real Sociedad also has several sections in athletics, including women's football, track and field, field hockey, and Basque pelota.
Football was introduced to San Sebastián in the early 1900s by students and workers returning from Britain. In 1904, they formed the San Sebastian Recreation Club and in 1905 the club competed in the Copa del Rey. In May 1905, the San Sebastian Football Club was formed as a separate branch of the club. In 1909, it applied to enter the Copa del Rey but complications over registration permits saw them compete as Club Ciclista de San Sebastián. This team defeated Club Español de Madrid 3–1 in the final. Out of the confusion, the Sociedad de Futbol was formed on 7 September 1909. In 1910, Spanish clubs played in two rival cup competitions and Sociedad de Futbol entered the Copa UECF as Vasconia de San Sebastián. In the same year, King Alfonso XIII – who used San Sebastián as his summer capital – gave the club his patronage, where it subsequently became known as Real Sociedad de Fútbol.
Real Sociedad was a founder member of La Liga in 1929. The team came fourth with Francisco "Paco" Bienzobas finishing as top scorer. The team's name was changed to Donostia Club de Futbol in 1931 with the advent of the Second Spanish Republic but changed back to Real Sociedad after the Spanish Civil War in 1939. The team has generally fluctuated between the Primera and Segunda divisions, in one period (during the 1940s) managing to be relegated and promoted seven times. Around that time, the sculptor Eduardo Chillida was the team's goalkeeper until injury put a stop to his football career.
After finishing in 13th position for three consecutive seasons, Real Sociedad were runners-up in the 2002–03 La Liga, its best finish since 1988. Its tally of 76 points was only beaten by Real Madrid's 78, and La Real had four more points than third-placed Deportivo de La Coruña. The club was managed by Frenchman Raynald Denoueix. La Real's strikeforce combined the Turkish striker Nihat Kahveci with Yugoslav international Darko Kovačević. The two were third and fourth top scorer in the league respectively, with 23 and 20 goals. The team also included Dutch international goalkeeper Sander Westerveld and Xabi Alonso in midfield. Alonso was the winner of the 2003 Don Balón award for the best Spanish player in the league, while Kahveci was voted the best foreign player and Denoueix the best manager.
Key moments from that season came when Real Sociedad beat Real Madrid on April 4–2 at the Anoeta Stadium. It kept first place in La Liga until the penultimate game of 38, when it lost 3–2 away to Celta de Vigo, while Real Madrid beat Atlético Madrid 4–0. This meant that Real Madrid secured first place two points clear of Real Sociedad for the last game, where La Real defeated Atlético Madrid 3–0 and Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao to win the title. The team qualified directly for the 2003–04 UEFA Champions League after finishing second; it was unbeaten at home, scored 71 goals in total, and lost just six times.
Real Sociedad were placed in Group D of the 2003–04 Champions League with Juventus, Galatasaray, and Olympiacos. The team won two matches, drew three and lost away to Juventus to finish second and advance to the last 16. It was knocked out after losing 1–0 in both games against Lyon, hosting the first game. The 2003–04 La Liga saw a dramatic decline in the club's performance, slipping to 15th out of 20. Its tally of 46 points was only five more than relegated Real Valladolid.
On 9 September 2006, Real Sociedad played its 2,000th La Liga match. Real Sociedad was relegated from La Liga in 2006–07, finishing 19th. On 9 July 2007, former Welsh international and Fulham manager Chris Coleman was appointed as the new club coach, on the recommendation of former Real Sociedad manager John Toshack, an important board member at the club. Coleman resigned on 16 January 2008.
On 13 June 2010, Real Sociedad returned to La Liga.
In the 2012–13 season, Real Sociedad finished in fourth place and qualified for the 2013–14 Champions League for the first time since the 2003–04 season, but in the play-offs, this time. In the play-offs, the club defeated Lyon 2–0 in both legs to qualify for the group stage. Real Sociedad, however, did not make it out of the group, earning just one point.
On 10 November 2014, Real Sociedad announced that David Moyes as the chosen manager to replace Jagoba Arrasate, who was sacked following a series of poor results. Moyes became the sixth British manager in the club's history, however, he was sacked 9 November 2015 after falling to 16th in La Liga. Later that day, he was replaced by Eusebio Sacristán.
Sacristán signed an initial contract until 30 June 2017. His contract was renewed in 2017, but Sacristán was ultimately dismissed after a string of poor performances left that 15th in the table and drawn into a relegation battle. Laser Garitano became the next head coach, having arrived from Leganes. He lasted only seven months before being dismissed, with the team also in 15th place, with only five wins in his seventeen league matches.
Garitano was succeeded by reserve team manager and local boy Imanol Alguacil on 26 December 2018. During his tenure, he has overseen an attacking style of play combining pace, precision, power, and exuberance.