If Tottenham Hotspur are unable to identify an adequate replacement for Luka Modric, who looks set to leave White Hart Lane, then it could be the difference between retaining their position in the top four and slipping out of that collection of elite clubs.
Andre Villas-Boas said on Wednesday during his first press engagement as Spurs boss that the club will sell Modric if a suitable offer is received. Twelve months after he first asked to leave the club, a parting of ways now looks inevitable.
If Modric does set off for pastures new, Tottenham will still have Gareth Bale to lead the team after he signed a new contract this summer. But the Wales international is a very direct player and Spurs will surely miss the more subtle influence that Modric wields in midfield and the way that he so frequently picks the ball up in the centre of the park and slips in Bale on the wing.
Tottenham will miss Modric badly, and they will never be able to bring in an identical player. Instead what they have to do is recruit someone who is effective in a slightly different manner, someone who can be equally as complementary with Scott Parker. Perhaps they can add a player who will bring a bit more steel to midfield because though Modric is a creative genius, he is a bit lightweight, as is Parker alongside him.
He will be a loss initially but his imminent exit gives Tottenham the chance to tweak the style of their play, and the club's new manager will be crucial in that regard.
If it was Harry Redknapp's Tottenham losing Modric then I think the situation would be much worse, as Harry wouldn't know how to cope with the situation as well as Andre Villas-Boas will. Having held talks with the club prior to his appointment he must have discussed with Daniel Levy the possibility of Modric leaving and how best to compensate for the loss of such an important player. He must have mentioned potential replacements. So there will be a plan in place.
Joao Moutinho has been mooted as a possible target and Villas-Boas said on Wednesday he is interested in the Porto midfielder. However, I didn't think he was exceptional at Euro 2012. It was all about the Ronaldo show for Portugal and I didn't see enough creativity from the midfield, or Moutinho in particular, to suggest he can replace Modric. He doesn't look to be the same kind of player but he was fantastic for Villas-Boas at Porto so no doubt he has a plan for him should the deal go through.
Modric has done very well at Tottenham, but it will be interesting to see him in a side that is competing for a league title or the Champions League, the kind of team that has to prise open defences that come purely to sit back and shut them out. Modric will be relied upon heavily to do that kind of job and that will tell us just how good he is.
He obviously sticks out at Tottenham thanks to that great ability that has had Spurs fans reminiscing about the likes of Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle. He is a player worthy of the best traditions of the club. He is also crucial for Croatia, as we saw during Euro 2012, but now a sterner test awaits him. We need to judge him on how he performs at the very elite level. Everyone rates him but seeing how he handles playing on the biggest stage on a weekly basis will be crucial.
So, where will he go? I think he would be mad to join Manchester City as he couldn't be guaranteed of the first-team football he deserves. He has also been linked with Chelsea and Manchester United but a move abroad to Real Madrid looks the most likely at present. If he does join Jose Mourinho at the Bernabeu then he will have to deal with not being the star of the show. As with any other player at Madrid, you have to be second best to Cristiano Ronaldo.
Whoever does sign Modric will certainly have to pay through the nose for him. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is arguably the toughest negotiator in the game - just look at how he dealt with Redknapp this summer. Levy will grind down the buying party.
In fact, his stubborn approach has had Spurs in some trouble in the past as the departures of players like Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov became prolonged, traumatic affairs. This appears like it will be cleaner and easier. Arsenal should probably take note.