Chris Coleman expects John O'Shea to extend his playing career for at least another season, but admits that it could be away from the Stadium of Light.
O'Shea's Sunderland contract expires at the end of the current campaign and reports in Ireland this week suggested he would then call time on his hugely successful career.
Coleman, however, fully expects the 36-year-old to push his senior playing days into a 20th year.
The Irishman, who has over 200 Sunderland appearances to his name, made his Manchester United debut in 1999.
Coleman said: "I haven’t had a conversation with him. I heard something about reports of retirement but I don’t think he’s got any intentions at all of retiring at the end of the season. His contract is up here, that’s the case with five players, but there have been no discussions on that. John will play on I think, he’ll want to play somewhere for longer than this season."
Coleman underlined O'Shea's immediate importance, even if his future may be elsewhere.
With Jake Clarke-Salter suspended he is almost certain to continue at centre-back over the busy Easter period.
Coleman said: "It isn’t just his 90 minutes on a Saturday, it is the way he trains, he acts, the way he acts with younger players, he is very important. Nothing lasts forever, we all know that, but at the minute we very much need him."
Joel Asoro will miss the trip to Derby County after suffering a concussion on international duty
Marc Wilson will return to the squad, with Paddy McNair also available.
Kazenga LuaLua is pushing for his first start but Coleman warned that his fitness is still not where it needs to be.
Coleman said: "The concussion rules Joel out for Friday. It is a bang on his jaw, with the rules on concussion there is a timeline, he could be OK for Monday but definitely not the Derby game. He has been one of the bright sparks, with his pace and his direct running, he will be a loss for us. But we can’t even contemplate taking a chance with a head injury.
"Billy Jones is out. Marc Wilson has trained more than more, and with two games in four days, we’ve got a squad of about 20 fit players and we’ll probably need them. He’s trained very well. Jonny Williams, we may not have him between now and the end of the season.
"Paddy got 20 minutes with Northern Ireland, he probably wouldn’t be able to do two 90 minutes but maybe an hour in one, half an hour in the other, we will wait and see.
"With Kaz, the issue is his fitness, really.
"We saw again the other week that he shows a glimpse that he can do something, hit a ball from 30 yards and make the keeper pull off a save, but physically he is not where he needs to be.
"We don't want to be starting him and then him not last because a player like Kaz, with fast twitch fibres, can easily get a hamstring problem and then he is out for three or four games and we don't want that.
"To be fair to him, he has been coming on in games where we are maybe one or two-nil down, it would be nice to bring him on when we are one-nil up or we are level and still in it, and see if he can produce something out of nothing for us.
"He's got the ability to change a game, but it's no good when we are two-nil down."
With his defensive options limited, Coleman could be forced to go to a back four and that could mean a chance for Aiden McGeady.
The winger has been out of favour recently but Coleman says he can have no complaints and wants greater consistency from the 31-year-old.
He said: "He's had as many chances as anybody else, and nobody is any different to anybody else.
"If you have a chance, you have to take your chance.
"It's not like being in the first six or ten games of the season, we are talking about eight games to go and he has had as many chances as anybody.
"Talent-wise, there's no question, but consistency? That's where the question lies for all of us, and he is no different."