European Football Leagues: what happens at the top

How is football different across Europe? Big teams dominating top leagues and making a story of their own due to hefty investments in players and new stadia. Sometimes an underdog that shines for a season gives a spark of emotions.

Let’s have a look at the top of the tables and focus on the first and second best placed teams. Analysing the 5 top football leagues tables in the last 10 years we can follow different patterns in different leagues.

Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga have seen only 3 teams win in the last 10 years with clear domination of Bayern München, Juventus and the duo Real Madrid/Barcelona, Premier League has seen 5 teams at the top and Ligue 1 a good 7 with a late domination of PSG.

If we look at the average gap between the first and the second best placed in each League the situation is quite different with Bundesliga heavily polarized with big gaps at the top (especially after 2012).

Premier League and La Liga are both extremely combative with a very low average gap, Serie A is average and Ligue 1 is normally quite combative with the notable exception of the 2015/16 PSG and Lyon 31 points difference.

Is this a sign of more or less interesting leagues? In theory it could be, but there is a big difference between national and international, and if fans even internationally have a strong favourite club.

In your country (or wherever you decide to be a local fan) what matters most than everything it’s your club, it can be a super season just because your club qualify for Europa League or goes in the top 10 (from a Torino AC fan) and that is what it makes you following each matchday as the most important one in the season.

If you have a more detached view, those leagues who see a club dominating after the first month and going on a running spree may potentially offer less emotions, even though — as a fan on iconic records in sport — seeing some club winning, goalkeeper no-goals streak, strikers scoring at every single match always provided some sort of excitement. 
Will Juventus win its 7th title in a row? Will Bayern go to 6? Will Cristiano Ronaldo, who has already scored 12 goals this season in UCL, reach or go beyond his record of 17?

To be noted that Bundesliga has 18 teams in the top league while all others have 20.

Until 2012 the maximum difference in points between the first and the second never went beyond 10, and after started to be more dramatic especially in certain leagues.

In a sequence for easy comparison all leagues latest 10 years gaps and winners / seconds (2018 current standings at 10 March).

Serie A
La Liga
Premier League
Ligue 1

For easy reference here the winners in the 5 top league in the last 10 (2018 current standings at 10 March).

League Winners (in bold UCL Winners)

Data have been manually entered so please let me know of any mistake.

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