JOHN Mensah has played his last game for Sunderland.
The Ghana captain has returned to parent club Lyon after the completion of his second year-long loan on Wearside and would love to come back for a third spell next season.
But Sunderland will not be pursuing the option after finally coming to the conclusion that the classy central defender’s injury problems are too much of an obstacle to overcome - especially with squad numbers now capped.
Mensah was a notable omission from Sunderland’s starting line-up on Sunday at West Ham, when his place was taken by fit-again Anton Ferdinand.
But the African was not left out of the side as a result of his controversial exit in the club’s last home game, when he showed bad sportsmanship in running straight down the tunnel after being subbed, rather than shaking the hand of teenage debutant and replacement Louis Laing.
“He didn’t play because he’s picked up an injury,” Bruce confirmed to the Press after the West Ham match.
”Hurt himself in our last training session before coming to London.”
And it is that susceptibility to injury which has torpedoed the African’s hopes of being offered another contract at the Stadium of Light.
Mensah was involved in only 18 of Sunderland’s games this season and 18 last season and most of those matches were played in fits and starts in between a spate of knocks and strains.
There was no doubting the defender’s quality and Bruce himself acknowledged that if Mensah had an injury-free record he would be a shoo-in for one of the Premier League’s top four teams.
The manager was fully aware of Mensah’s awful injury record before signing him on his arrival at Sunderland, but he was also aware that when the Ghanaian was fit he was Champions League quality.
Mensah however was nowhere near as outstanding this season as he was last, with the lack of training seeming to take its toll on the 28-year-old.
A long-term problematic back injury produces a tendency for him to pick up a series of injuries and being unable to train properly during the week for Premier League matches results means he struggles to last the pace over the course of 90 minutes.
It is a shame for Mensah who not only has genuine top-class ability but a superb attitude to the game and a genuine passion for Sunderland and the North East of England.
And it will be interesting to see what opportunities come his way in the summer.
Mensah himself already seems to be accepting the fact that his future lies in a different direction while his agent Fabien Piveteau looks for pastures new for his client.
Piveteau said: “Glasgow Rangers have expressed interest in John but we are looking at other offers and taking into consideration the price tag before making a move.
“We have to sit with John’s former club-Lyon for a better deal for both parties, for now, we are just considering some factors before taking the next plan of action.”