Twice Player of the Year in Scotland and a key man in the Treble teams of 1976 and 1978 as well as the Barcelona victory. Only John Greig made more appearances post-war.
Yet it took nearly four seasons of first team football before he settled into the position in which he excelled.
He had played wing half, inside forward – even centre forward – before manager Willie Waddell moved him to full back, where he gave such precise and cultured performances that he was acclaimed as one of the best defenders in the 1974 World Cup, a tournament which included the victorious West Germans Bertie Vogts and Paul Breitner.
Jardine went on to play in two World Cups, winning 39 caps for Scotland. He made 674 appearances for Rangers -the third highest of all time after Dougie Gray and John Greig – and scored 77 goals.
He won three Championships with Rangers, five Scottish Cups, five League Cups and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
He was also a vital member of the side that won two Trebles in three years in a long career that marked him down as one of the greatest Rangers players of the post-war era.
Jardine, born in Edinburgh December 31 1948, came to Rangers from school at the age of 15. He had just turned 18 when he made his debut at right half against Hearts in February 1967.
The match took place just one week after Rangers had suffered the shock of losing 1-0 to Berwick Rangers in the Scottish Cup.
Changes were made, John Greig switched to left half and Jardine was brought in at No.4 to face the club he grew up near. Rangers won 5-1.
Jardine retained his place for the rest of the season and played in the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final when Rangers lost 1-0 to an extra time goal against Bayern Munich in May 1967.
However, Bayern’s Franz Beckenbauer – who had already played in a World Cup Final – was lavish in his praise for the performance of Jardine, his opposite number in the match.
At the start of the 1968-69 season, Jardine found himself playing at centre forward under manager Davie White. He played 12 consecutive games in that position, scoring 11 goals – an enviable strike rate – including four in a 7-1 defeat of Queen’s Park in the Glasgow Cup.
His other strikes included two against Morton in a League Cup match, both goals in the 2-0 defeat of Partick Thistle in the opening League game and one in Europe against Vojvodina in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup.
But that season and 1969-70 were frustrating ones for Jardine as the team was switched around to try to find a successful formula. Then for the last three League games in 1969-70, manager Willie Waddell, who had taken over from Davie White, moved him to full back.
Jardine, a player with attacking instincts as well as being a reliable tackler, proved a natural. The day of the overlapping full back – an earlier version of today’s wing back – was arriving and Jardine had the speed and the skill to become a master of the role.
He won his first major trophy in 1970 in the 1-0 defeat of Celtic in the League Cup Final and made his first appearance for Scotland, coming on as a substitute against Denmark at Hampden.
His first international start came in a European Championship game against Portugal in October 1971. He marked the great Eusebio out of the game and Scotland won 2-1.
That was the beginning of what was to be a remarkable spell for Jardine. He played in every round as Rangers achieved European glory by winning the Cup Winners’ Cup 3-2 against Moscow Dynamo in Barcelona in 1972.
In fact, it was Jardine’s crucial goal in the semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich that had put Rangers ahead and on their way to the Final.
It was towards the end of that season that Jardine embarked on a football marathon. Between April 27 1972 and August 30 1975 he did not miss a single game for Rangers. That sequence of 171 consecutive appearances not only spoke volumes for his outstanding ability but also his fitness.
His first Scottish Cup winners’ medal came in 1973 with a 3-2 victory over Celtic in the Final and in 1974 he was selected for Scotland’s squad for the World Cup in Germany.
Jardine and Celtic’s Danny McGrain, who represented Scotland together in 19 internationals, were spoken of as the best full back pairing in the competition. Scotland were undefeated, beating Zaire 2-0 and drawing with Brazil and Yugoslavia.
They failed to qualify for the later stages only by virtue of having an inferior goal average to that of Brazil. But the Scots were impressive, and none more so than Jardine who played in all three matches.
Back home, the next season saw Rangers take the Championship for the first time in 11 years. Jardine was again ever-present, scoring nine goals in 34 League games.
There was better to come, however, with two Trebles in three years in seasons 1975-76 and 1977-78. The trophies include two League Cup Final victories over Celtic, 1-0 and 2-1, and Scottish Cup Final wins against Hearts 3-1 and Aberdeen 2-1.
During that 1975 League Cup run, Jardine scored five goals in seven games including a hat-trick against Airdrie.
He was again selected for the World Cup in Argentina in 1978. But he was troubled by injury and played only in the 1-1 draw with Iran.
Jardine added to his collection of domestic honours as Rangers retained both the Scottish and League Cups in 1978-79, beating Hibernian 3-2 after a second replay and Aberdeen 2-1 in the respective Finals.
It was at the start of the 1979-80 season that Jardine scored what was probably the goal of his career. Facing Celtic in the Drybrough Cup Final, he won possession in the tackle on the edge of his own penalty area then ran almost the length of the field, beating defender after defender.
As he reached the Celtic box, he cut inside and unleashed a left foot shot that rifled into the back of the net. It was a glorious goal – yet one which didn’t quite get all the credit it deserved.
Rangers final goal in that 3-1 victory was scored by Davie Cooper, who flicked the ball in the air four times over Celtic defenders before slotting it home. It was a breathtaking moment and as Jardine himself has said with wry humour: “I hardly got a mention in the papers the following day.”
But Jardine’s strike remains one that any player would be proud to have locked away in his bag of memories.
There were two more Cup winners’ medals to be had – a 4-1 victory over Dundee United in a replayed Scottish Cup Final in 1981 and, later in the year, a 2-1 League Cup Final win over the same opponents.
But the final break was being made with the team that had won those two Trebles and after playing in every League game in 1981-82, Jardine was released and joined Hearts.
Jardine, whose last international appearance was against Belgium in the European Championship in 1980, embarked on a new lease of life.
With Jardine as their sweeper, Hearts went so close to honours in 1985-86, finishing runners-up in both the Championship and the Scottish Cup.
Jardine was chosen as Scotland’s Player of the Year. He was 37 and it was the second time he had received the honour.
He became player-assistant manager and then joint manager at Hearts until 1988.
Jardine was every inch the modern player, one who would have been a star in any of the current leading European teams. Despite being a full back, he was one of the first “total” footballers to be seen in the Scottish game which he graced in more than 1,000 appearances.