He has been a key part of Sunderland's recent history but John O'Shea and the Black Cats will soon have a decision to make.
He is out contract in just over a month and while no decision will be made until the fate of Stewart Donald's takeover is known, it will be a significant one.
So what might happen next and what should happen next?
We analyse the key factors....
The player's view
In a wide-ranging interview with the Irish Independent, O'Shea opened up on his Sunderland frustrations but did say that he wanted to remain at the club for another year.
He said: "The club now have a chance to really get back to core values, re-group and really go again. Hopefully things can start happening soon, because there is a danger of getting left behind.
"For the moment, my contract is up in June and I want to continue playing for another season. Where it will be, we will have to wait and see, and we will see what happens with things at Sunderland but yes, I would like to stay.
The 37-year-old spoke in the aftermath of relegation from the Premier League of his affection for the area and the people, something that has not changed despite another difficult season on the pitch.
By his own admission, O'Shea has played more than he expected to and more than he should have done, due to the poor form and injury problems of others.
He has already spoken of the need for the club to secure players with greater 'durability' but clearly feels that he can have a part to play, albeit a reduced one.
The fans' view
O'Shea was recently chosen as the Supporters Association player of the season, a sign of the esteem he is held in.
However, there is also unquestionably a strong feeling from many supporters that an overhaul of the playing squad is long overdue. O'Shea, as captain and senior figure, would clearly be part of that.
An Echo poll on the issue reflected those mixed feelings, with 47% voting in favour of giving him a new deal, and 53% against.
The new regime?
The biggest question for O'Shea is what the new regime, and the manager they appoint, want to do with the squad.
Most managers would jump at the chance to have a player of his experience in their ranks, but there will also be budgetary concerns and that will apply to all players out of contract.
Sunderland are likely to need around 15 new players through the door this summer and that presents a significant challenge when the overall aim will be to bring the wage bill down significantly.
O'Shea is widely respected in the game and that will no doubt apply to those in charge next season. The decision all will have to make is whether he offers the best value in a challenging market.
Phil Smith - O'Shea has been a superb servant and it is no coincidence that virtually every manager to come through the door has eventually decided their team is better with him in it. That is not a story of player power but one of dedication, professionalism and game intelligence. Yet again this season has seen him stand up when others have gone missing. If he was to stay for another year he would let no one down and ultimately it will be a call for the new manager, whoever that proves to be.
My instinct, however, is that any opportunity for change this summer needs to be taken. Experience will certainly be needed if Sunderland are to win League One but the first priority has to be greater athleticism, particularly through the spine of the team. It could be a good time for the two to part ways and in time O'Shea's service will come to outweigh the struggles of the last two years.
Rich Mennear - Nobody - not even John O'Shea himself - would have expected the 37-year-old to make 40 appearances for Sunderland last season. Truth be told Sunderland should have replaced the club captain properly while still in the Premier League. They failed to do so yet time and again he still proves to be the most reliable Black Cats defender.
The bar wasn't set very high this season given Sunderland had the second worst defence in the league on the way to successive relegations but the Black Cats always looked more compact and organised with O'Shea at the back.
This summer offers a real chance for a complete reboot on Wearside and nobody is pretending that O'Shea at the heart of the defence next season would represent that.
That said, Sunderland should look to find a role for O'Shea when his contract expires, whether it be a player-coach role, with the emphasis increasingly on coaching.
His experience of winning titles and trophies at Manchester United and the ups and downs during his seven-year spell on Wearside plus his 17-year - and 117 cap - senior international career means he has a wealth of experience to share.
O'Shea was a regular under a steady stream of Sunderland managers, they all thought he had something to offer and the next generation coming through the Academy of Light could learn an awful lot from him.