Last updated : 29 May 2007 By editor

'As we wait for the traditional stragglers of La Liga to complete their title race, the champions of Europe's domestic leagues have a remarkably familiar feel. Indeed, it seems that, if you exclude the Big Four of England, Spain, Italy and Germany, the second tier of continental football struggles to produce new champions who are more than one-season wonders.

'Consider the list of champions: Lyons (France) have won their sixth title in a row, Olympiacos (Greece) ten of the past 11, PSV Eindhoven (the Netherlands) three in a row and six of the past eight, Anderlecht (Belgium) three of the past four, FC Porto (Portugal) three of the past four and eight of the past 12, Celtic (Scotland) three of the past four and five of the past seven, Fenerbahçe (Turkey), three of the past four.

'Outside the highest echelons, success is part of a cycle. Clubs sell their top players to the big four leagues and use the proceeds to gather whatever domestic talent is not in their possession. Any Champions League run (with the ensuing profits) is a bonus. And because they are often the only club in their league with any chance of advancing to the knockout phase, they tend to benefit most from European competition.

'The result is a polarisation that far surpasses that in the Big Four.'