The coming summer is set to be a landmark one for Eden Hazard – and one in which his future career path is decided, writes Dan Levene.
If there were small signs of irritation at the outrageous Panenka the Belgian dinked into the net against Newcastle United, then Antonio Conte was doing his best to keep them hidden.
“The important thing for me is to score, and it happened, and I am happy for this,” said the Chelsea boss.
But Hazard's softly-struck trickery might have been seen by some as a risk; and Conte doesn't like players taking risks.
Of course it is likely the man in the number 10 shirt saw it as no risk at all: so full of confidence is he at the moment, and so sure is he of his own ability as a player.
Hazard is almost certainly the most gifted player ever to pull on the Chelsea shirt. Those who watched Gianfranco Zola may have been simply stunned at what he could pull out of the bag from time to time; Hazard manages to provoke that sort of incredulity almost every week right now.
It is a little over five years since Chelsea signed one of Europe's hottest properties. And, almost every summer since, the speculation has been about when he would move on to Real Madrid, or Paris Saint-Germain.
Hazard was one of the earliest examples of Chelsea's relatively recent shift in transfer policy: towards young talent that can be developed, and which will return a healthy profit on re-sale. And, though sometimes accused of a lack of consistency, Hazard has more than delivered on the first part of that deal: notably in the Blues' title-winning 2014-15 season, when he was named both PFA and Football Writers player of the year.
Turning 27 in January, he has reached that stage in his career where greatness is often defined: his powers are at their greatest, and the law of averages says he should enjoy a purple patch, before his athleticism starts to decline around the age of 30. But 27 is also a significant time in any player's career: the point where thoughts turn to playing legacy; where that final move might be considered.
This will also be, lest we forget, a World Cup summer: and Hazard could not be placed any more centrally in the shop window than when playing for his national side against England; for a side under pressure to show delivery from its golden generation.
At his club, Conte is doing much to help Haard towards greatness, whether it be in the longer term with Chelsea, or to up his price for a summer move. The deployment of him as a second striker, alongside Alvaro Morata, has brought the superlatives tumbling-in this last month. In case you were unaware of a player in his prime right now, the way he has excelled in his more central role has made it entirely impossible to miss.
With two and a half years left on his contract, we are at the point in the cycle where a club must decide whether to stick or twist. Run the contract down under two years and a player's sell-on value starts to diminish. The choice in the summer will be to announce either a new deal, or a new club.
Conte's only concern is to get the best out of his side, and to secure results. But his management of Hazard is, of course, a double-edged sword: help him soar, and he will be happy; but the higher he goes, the clearer his outline will be to those clubs that might covet his ability.
So will Hazard decide this summer to effectively pledge his career to Chelsea? Or will he move on to a bigger pay day, in a league where he will have far more space to deliver? That largely depends on the size of the bidding: as last summer showed, even the world's biggest sides are forced to become selling clubs at a certain point.
But, for Hazard, it won't be just about money. It will be about where he can most enjoy his football, and where his family can be most comfortable. Conte is working very hard right now trying to ensure that, in both cases, the answer is 'Chelsea'.