But the importance of TV money to Europe’s elite clubs cannot be underestimated. In fact, the top tier of clubs has spent considerably more this summer than in previous years.

The biggest spenders in Italy have again been the Milan clubs, with Milan spending in excess of œ90m on new players, while recouping only around œ30m in sales. Inter’s balance of trading, with a host of new arrivals including Toldo and Sergio Conceicao, stands at œ20m in the red.

In England, where individual pay-per-view games will be screened for the first time this season, Manchester United have abandoned previous prudent practice, spending œ47m in twice breaking the UK record, for Veron and Ruud Van Nistelrooy (œ19m, PSV).

In Spain, Barcelona have, in fact, outspent Real Madrid, with almost œ60m laid out on Javier Saviola and others. By contrast, French and German clubs have been far more cautious. The biggest purchase for European champions Bayern Munich has been Claudio Pizarro (œ5m, Werder Bremen). Borussia Dortmund have been the Bundesliga’s biggest spenders, with Jan Koller (œ7m, Anderlecht) their biggest signing.

Ironically, while the details of Zidane’s record-breaking contract with Real Madrid were being finalised,the extraordinary FIFA Congress in Buenos Aires was approving the details of a new transfer system, the result of negotiations earlier this year between UEFA, FIFA and the European Commission (EC). Real Madrid’s purchase of Figo last year is widely thought to have been the catalyst which sparked the EC’s interest in the matter, forcing FIFA and UEFA to act.

Under the new proposals, which FIFA hopes will be in place by September and will not apply to existing contracts, players will sign contracts for between one and five years. If they break these deals within a set period D three years for those under 28, two years for over-28s D they face an initial ban of four months. In addition, clubs will be forced to pay compensation to the club that developed the player up to the age of 23.