From battling Premier League relegation to eyeing Eredivisie glory, Alireza Jahanbakhsh wants to deliver for Feyenoord

Having spent the past three season battling relegation in the Premier League with Brighton, Alireza Jahanbakhsh is now hunting Eredivisie glory with Feyenoord. ANP Sport via Getty Images

Even though Iran has had no shortage of successful footballing exports, Feyenoord's Alireza Jahanbakhsh is venturing where none of his compatriots have gone. Or anyone from his continent for that matter.

It was never going to be easy to surpass Iranian icons like Ali Daei -- who was the leading scorer in men's international football until recently being surpassed by a certain Cristiano Ronaldo -- or Mehdi Mahdavikia, who made 253 appearances in the German Bundesliga and was named in Hamburg's Team of the Century in 2012.

Yet, having moved to Europe at 19 years old, Jahanbakhsh became the first Asian to finish a season as the leading scorer of a top European league in 2017-18. He had racked up 21 goals for AZ Alkmaar to win the Eredivisie's golden boot in a superb campaign which also saw him notch 12 assists -- joint-third in the competition.

His performances that season then saw him become just the fourth Iranian to earn a move to the Premier League when he signed for Brighton in the summer of 2018. Jahanbakhsh's time in England was arguably the biggest test he then encountered -- just when it looked like his star was rising even higher.

After three seasons with Brighton, the winger made the decision to return to the Eredivisie with Feyenoord and is now focused purely on his future.

"I was thinking about this decision for a long time and I wanted to go for a new adventure and try my chance somewhere else," he told ESPN. "Feyenoord are one of the biggest clubs in the country with, in my opinion, the nicest stadium and amazing fans, which are all things that helped me make this decision.

"I tried to settle down as soon as possible and now it feels like home. There were other options from different countries, even in the last few years, but I spoke to the people I trust and we just thought this would be the best decision. There's a lot of pressure and expectations and I knew that. I came here to help the team, to be an important player and do the job, which is to bring this club where it really deserves to be and belongs: top of the league."

When asked if he had any regrets from his time with Brighton, Jahanbakhsh revealed it was a question he received a lot but that he does not bear any grudges against a club and city he still holds close to his heart.

"If I could go back, I would still make the same decision," he declared. "Even before my transfer to AZ Alkmaar, I had already visited the club and really liked it but, at the time, they were in the Championship.

"I always told the people around me that if Brighton were to reach the Premier League, I would love to go there because I love the city, the stadium and people are really nice.

"Three years later, they were in the Premier League but I was just 21, so I thought I needed a little bit more experience before making the next step.

"After three years with AZ Alkmaar, I finally moved to Brighton. There were ups and downs but I never gave up -- I just worked my socks off to get my chance to be important, because I knew there was a reason they brought me to the club.

"I loved the club, I had good relationships with everyone but sometimes it just doesn't work out. I personally don't think I got the chance I deserved but there are no regrets; just learning and moving on."

Brighton have been flying high so far in the Premier League this season and Jahanbakhsh, who reveals he still keeps a close eye on their results, said that he is "so, so glad for them".

Yet, the reality for the Seagulls, as it was during his time with them, is that avoiding relegation likely remains the main target.

In contrast, Feyenoord are considered one of Netherlands' three biggest clubs along with Ajax and PSV Eindhoven, boasting 15 league titles in their trophy cabinet.

As he transitions from a relegation dogfight to battling for top honours, Jahanbakhsh does not need any added motivation.

"Coming to a team that is fighting to win the league obviously comes with a different mindset," he revealed.

"Everyone plays football to win the trophies. I really like the mentality here, day in day out we train really well and there's a lot of quality in the team.

"We obviously want to finish as high as possible, and we also have the cup games and the Europa Conference League, so there's so much to look forward to."

And as he approaches his prime at the age of 28 having achieved plenty but still with plenty of time for more, what other goals has he set for himself?

"I came here to make my next step," said Jahanbakhsh. "I still want to play for the biggest clubs in the world. I want to play in the Champions League, which is one of my dreams, and I will work hard for it."