WITH three English clubs in the last four of the Champions League and three Spanish outfits making up the numbers with Werder Bremen in the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, few could disagree with the argument that the Premiership and La Liga are the best in the world.

And there will be those who suggest that because Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea have managed where Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia failed, the Premiership is the clear No 1.

But scratch beneath the surface and beyond the top four teams in this country there is very little for us to get excited about.

Last season Middlesbrough showed how to reach the UEFA Cup final while not performing to their best under Steve McClaren domestically. They met their match, just like Tottenham on Thursday night, against Sevilla.

Spurs offered the English top-flight's only resistance in the latter stages of Europe's second-tier competition, while Blackburn and West Ham never looked like possessing the quality or ability to go all the way.

Briefly Newcastle looked like surprising, but were completely outclassed by Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, whose weaknesses were exploited to the limit by Werder on Wednesday night.

To have no English side in the last four of the UEFA Cup illuminates the need for those clubs beneath United, Liverpool and Chelsea - including Arsenal - to wake up and make the most of the cash injection coming their way next season.

La Liga may not have any representatives left in the Champions League, the fact they have three in the UEFA Cup bodes well for the rest of the pack below Real Madrid and Barcelona.

That in itself is an indication of the progress being made on the Mediterranean. Sevilla, Osasuna and Espanyol are all in there with genuine hopes of glory in Glasgow next month, which must make Newcastle, Tottenham, Blackburn and West Ham squirm.

And, with the greatest will in the world and without large investment, the sides likely to be in the UEFA Cup next season hardly look like ending the seven-year wait for an English club to lift the trophy.

With Bolton and Everton occupying two of the places at the moment, the rest of Europe will not be ducking for cover.

And, if Manchester United and Chelsea reach the FA Cup final over the course of this semi-final weekend, only Tottenham, Portsmouth and Reading will fight it out for the third and final UEFA Cup spot and the Intertoto Cup berth.

Little there for the continent to worry about. The increase in TV cash for Premiership clubs will seriously strengthen clubs' hands, but the money needs to be spent wisely.

With the doom and gloom out of the way, there is of course the euphoric fact that we have the three leading lights left in the Champions League flying the flag.

The prospect of having two Premiership clubs in the final of the world's premier club competition is incredible; a real indication of the true worth of the squads formed by Messrs Ferguson, Mourinho and Benitez.

What an occasion that would be for English football.

There are those that will feel the occasion is already set in stone, given the awesome display of Cristiano Ronaldo and co against Roma on Wednesday. For the Premiership and for England, let's hope that is the case.