RANGERS have renewed their interest in Brazilian striker Jardel, whose goals propelled FC Porto into the quarter-finals of this season's European Cup.

The Ibrox club first attempted to sign the powerful front player 18 months ago but then the deal collapsed in a tangle of red tape. Now, I understand that they have made fresh inquiries about the player's availability.

Jardel has become a hero with the supporters of the Portuguese champions, but I understand that the discreet soundings from Glasgow have brought an equally discreet response from Porto, suggesting that Jardel could be available for a fee of around $6m. At the current exchange rate, that works out at less than #4m.

The player, who has represented his country at Under-21 level, is seen within Ibrox as someone who could establish a potent partnership with Rangers' other South American forward, the Chilean World Cup player, Sebastian Rozental. Ibrox manager Walter Smith apparently sees the need for a strong target man, the kind of player who would create more space for Rozental in the opposing penalty box.

The Chilean, of course, has scarcely played for the Scottish champions since being signed for around #3m. He was injured playing against St Johnstone at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup and the ligament damage he suffered then required a journey to the United States for surgery.

Now he is returning to fitness and Smith and the rest of the Ibrox backroom staff fully expect him to be ready for the opening European Cup game, which is scheduled for July. If Rangers could also produce Jardel by that time, then the all-South American strike-force could be enough to carry them forward into the Champions' League.

It would appear that there could be fewer problems this time round over a work permit for the Brazilian. The constant worries over that finally ended Rangers' previous interest in the player, who then signed for the Portuguese club.

Now, however, there are moves to alter the conditions in Scotland that apply to players from outwith the European Community. Proposals will go before the Scottish Football League soon in a bid to allow clubs to have three non-EEC players registered if they wish to.

Also, Jardel's accomplishments with Porto would be taken into consideration by the Department of Employment, who monitor all work permit applications and generally demand that players are of international standard before granting them permission to ply their trade in the United Kingdom.

Jardel has always maintained that his wish is to join Rangers. He was given a rapturous reception at Ibrox when he attended a match there during the period that the negotiations were taking place. Since then, he has said that he still holds hopes of being able to join the Ibrox club at some stage of his career.

Smith has never lost interest in the player he brought from Brazil only to lose because of officialdom. Recently, Rangers have been linked with the Swede Kennet Andersson, whose goals defeated Scotland in Gothenburg in their last World Cup game, but his Italian club, Bologna, want #6m for the striker who is 29 years old.

Jardel is just 22, would cost considerably less, and would re-emphasise Smith's desire to lower the average age of his current squad.

Meanwhile, as Rangers players flew back to Glasgow from London yesterday after their 3-3 draw with Arsenal in the testimonial game for long-serving Highbury defender Nigel Winterburn, defender Alan McLaren was entering hospital in the capital.

Last summer, McLaren went through a knee operation, one that kept him out of his country's Euro96 bid, and which then sidelined him for his club for the first six months or so of this season. Since his return to first-team action with Rangers, he has been suffering some pain from the same knee.

Smith explained yesterday: ''The surgeon who carried out the operation last summer wants to take another look at the knee. We don't think there is anything to worry about, but Alan has complained of some pain and so he has stayed behind in London to allow the specialist to examine him and determine just how things are.

''He will use one of the scopes and Alan is expected to be okay within 10 days' time. If that is the case, then he would still be available to travel with Scotland to Belarus for the World Cup game there early in June.

''I think he will be all right for that if Scotland manager Craig Brown wants him in the travelling squad.''

The Arsenal game brought Rangers' season to an end, though Paul Gascoigne will play in two more testimonial matches this week as he continues to improve his fitness.