James Lawton: Modric can be a true great if he listens to his heart and conscience

As he moves to his football prime he should understand there is only one place he can truly make his future, financial or otherwise - and that is out on the field

no one is ready to write it in stone – not until the transfer deadline is passed – but the conviction grows at White Hart Lane that Luka Modric must sooner or later face up to rather more than a new season's challenge to his brilliant creative instincts.

He has to show that in the end he had the heart of an exquisitely gifted footballer.

Modric has to prove that having played the mercenary game and maybe failed – and how many in football are equipped to throw the first stones in a burst of righteous indignation? – he can reclaim the kind of momentum that once made him an 18-year-old player of the year in the Bosnian league.

That accolade has a special resonance – certainly beyond the equivalent one he earned some years later while playing for Dinamo Zagreb – for anyone who understands the ferocity of the game played in that especially craggy battle zone of the Balkans.

Modric fought his way through a lot of barriers to become, so briefly as it may have turned out, one of the most admired Spurs players since the tragic passing of John White nearly 50 years ago, and maybe, at the age of 25, it is something for him to reflect upon when he answers the old half-full or half-empty question about the status of his wine glass.

If Chelsea don't, this is, come storming in, as they did for Fernando Torres, with unanswerable amounts of hard cash at the very moment the issue appears to be closed.

Inside White Hart Lane, though, the odds suggest that while Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri enjoy the exhilaration of getting their way, and Carlos Tevez continues to huff and puff but with declining possibilities that he will blow down a Manchester City house increasingly inhabited by equally significant performers, Modric is resembling nothing so much as a moral dilemma waiting to unfold.

One club source yesterday confirmed the growing conviction that chairman Daniel Levy is doing a lot more than driving up the price Chelsea might have to pay, which was an inevitably revived suspicion with the news that Modric would stay qualified for this season's Champions League by again going absent from the Tottenham team for last night's Europa Cup action against Hearts.

If Levy does indeed stand hard in his belief that it has fallen to him to draw a line in the shifting sands of money-driven opportunism – and refuses to buckle as he did a few years ago when Sir Alex Ferguson practically battered down the doors to sign the discontented Dimitar Berbatov – Modric will indeed become so much more than an exceptionally gifted football player.

He will become, it is not too fanciful to say, a one-man war zone of conscience and will, the outcome of which could well decide the immediate future of a club that appeared to be making such brilliant, sure-footed strides last season.

Manager Harry Redknapp was certainly candid enough this week when he revealed his distinctly pragmatic conversation with his coach Joe Jordan. The £30m-plus question was whether Spurs would be better off spreading such an amount of transfer seed money into an upgrading of squad strength.

According to Redknapp, who like Jordan has lived through several ages of the game, the option became a little more appealing each time they looked at the glum expression of a player who in normal circumstances can express the joy of doing something remarkable on the field rather better than most.

"It's going to be difficult for him," said Redknapp. "He is going to be sitting there every week, thinking he could be winning in the Champions League with Chelsea or competing for the title and earning £100,000 a week more. You can sit here and say he is lucky to be in that position but it is difficult."

What we can say with great certainty is that if Levy holds firm, Modric is indeed contemplating the most challenging phase of his life.

He can behave in one of two ways. He can confirm the worst fears of old pros like Redknapp and Jordan – and he can justify the worst charges of those who say that football has indeed become all about the tyranny of the big money.

Or, who knows, he can build on a remarkable journey from a youth bedevilled by civil war, and the loss of a beloved grandfather, and prove that he has the resilience to survive one failed attempt to respond to the main chance of the riches beckoning down the Fulham Road.

He should understand, certainly, as he moves towards his football prime that there is only one place where he can truly make his future, financial or otherwise. It is not in some wallowing corner. It is out on the field where he performed the kind of magic that enraptured White Hart Lane when Spurs broke the reigning champions of Europe, Internazionale, last season.

Luka Modric should simply play his game – and know that sooner or later the money will look after itself. If his grandfather hadn't been cut down, he might have told him that.