CAPTAIN. Leader. Legend? The first two are unquestionable, but the third remains up for debate in the Rangers career of James Tavernier.

Such a status is only bestowed on those who are truly worthy at Ibrox. Tavernier has laid the foundations for his claim and the coming years give him the opportunity to enshrine his name amongst some of the finest to pull on the famous blue jersey.

When Rangers confirmed that Tavernier had put pen-to-paper on a new contract last week, there was one key detail missing from the announcement on the official club website. For some reason, and somewhat bizarrely, there was no mention of when the deal will expire.

It was stated that the extension to ‘his current long-term contract’ would take Tavernier ‘well into his thirties as a Ranger’. With seven years of service already to his credit, it will earn him a testimonial at Ibrox.

It is rare for players these days to remain in the one place for long enough to be granted that honour, but Tavernier deserves it for his deeds as much as his staying power and it will be a fitting way to mark his contribution to the club when the time comes.

There is another unique factor about Tavernier’s career. Few players who have been at Ibrox for as long would have divided opinion in the way in which he still does.

And it is that debate that means there is dubiety about his status – somewhere between hero and legend at present – as he prepares to enter what should be the finest years of his career, both in terms of levels and glories for Rangers.

His detractors cannot shake the stigma over his defensive abilities and the times where mistakes were made in previous seasons continue to hang over Tavernier’s head in the minds of some. It is said that he is not positionally sound enough to be a right-back, that his rampaging runs leave his side exposed too often and are not worth the risk.

Those views fail to consider the way his game has evolved and improved over time, though. Tavernier has made his fair share of costly blunders, but they are now few and far between and his levels have risen exponentially alongside the quality of the player around him over the last seven seasons.

Criticism of his leadership and his role as captain emerges in adversity. Some would prefer to see him rant and roar on the park in an attempt to cajole his side but such an approach does not fit Tavernier’s style, or in some ways the modern game.

He is a skipper who leads by example. In key moments in matches, it is he who steps up and stands up and each assist or goal on a record that speaks for itself is proof of his importance to the team.

He is as resilient as he is reliable. It is one thing being available as often as Tavernier has been, but quite another to continually and consistently perform at the level he has done, especially since being handed the armband by Steven Gerrard in 2018.

Tavernier is not a traditional full-back or an old-school captain. Yet his character and his qualities make him perfectly suited for the game of today and he stands as one of the most significant figures in Rangers’ recent history.

If a different ending had been written to the story of Seville, Tavernier would already have been held up amongst the best and only John Greig, the Greatest of them all, would have had a European achievement as significant as the man who lifted the historic 55th Premiership title.

That moment ensures Tavernier has a place in Ibrox folklore but it is sustained success at home and abroad that will allow him to really leave a legacy at the club where he has made his career and in the city where his family have settled.

He is, in his own words, now ‘part of the furniture’ at Rangers and the lure of silverware will continue to drive him. At 30, his best should yet be to come.

A Rangers career of more than 350 appearances has already yielded 86 goals and the century could yet arrive before the end of the season for the man who was, quite remarkably and so memorably, the top scorer in the Europa League last term.

Tavernier still has boxes to tick before he can move up a level in the Ibrox pantheon and, like all true greats, his medal collection will go some way to defining him when he does leave Rangers. In all likelihood, he will finish his career here.

Leading Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side into the group stages of the Champions League would be another significant achievement and he stands just 90 minutes away from accomplishing that goal. The task, though, is ominous for Rangers as they target victory in Eindhoven to overcome a PSV side that have the upper hand in the play-off round tie.

Tavernier spoke last week about what the run to Seville meant on a personal and collective basis – as Rangers were put ‘back on the map’ - and of the importance of Champions League football. With the ink dried on his deal, he has guaranteed himself another handful of attempts at reaching that illustrious level.

Every goal scored or reached is another step towards the Hall of Fame board that hangs above the Marble Staircase and Tavernier seems destined to have his name etched there in the future as he takes his place alongside Barcelona Bears, nine-in-a-row winners and Treble kings.

For many, Tavernier will earn the right in his own right. If he can lead Rangers to Premiership titles and domestic cups, as well as deliver more European accolades, then even his biggest critics will not be able to argue against his career being recognised in such a way.

Tavernier will always be remembered as a captain and a leader. Now he can become an Ibrox legend.