The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eriksson’s tigress keeps her claws hidden for now

London, July 22: In the battlefield that is Sven-Goran Eriksson’s not-so-private private life, Nancy Dell’Olio’s weapon of choice has always been her wardrobe. That and the occasional well-aimed plate.

The tenacious girlfriend of the England coach has admitted as much, saying: “I make a statement with everything I wear.”

So yesterday, as she left the couple’s £3-million Nash home in Regent’s Park amid intense speculation that they had split, and in the absence of any official statement, what exactly did her outfit say'

For those familiar with the Sven-Nancy roadshow, which has run and run since television presenter Ulrika Jonsson kissed and told of her four-month relationship with her fellow Swede, this was definitely not classic Dell’Olio. Where was the famous deep decolletage, the tight corsetry, the over-the-top fur trim' True, there was a flash of well-tanned thigh. But this was the rarely seen demure Dell’Olio.

Allegations, strongly denied, that Eriksson’s notorious roving eye had alighted on the Football Association secretary Faria Alam, 38, seem not to have brought out the tigress in his girlfriend.

Far from the sequinned catsuit in blood red — “the colour of passion” — slashed to the navel and employed with sensational effect to draw the paparazzi lenses away from Jonsson two years ago, Dell’Olio’s choice yesterday implied a vulnerability. The oversized bag served to diminish her tiny frame as she left for a lunch appointment with friends.

The adjective “vulnerable” is not one usually associated with the Italian former lawyer of indeterminate age, who for six tempestuous years has been Mrs Eriksson-in-waiting. Volcanic, triumphant, dogged, are the ones commonly employed.

Eriksson, if Jonsson is to be believed, is terrified of her, referring to her as “the third party”, or “the Italian”. Which, if true, is a bit shabby. All Dell’Olio has done since she was thrust into the limelight two years ago is publicly and passionately stand by her man. Perhaps a bit too publicly, though, for her balding, bespectacled and extremely wealthy lover.

Dell’Olio, in a recent and rare television interview with chat show host Jonathan Ross, when asked how she kept fit, fluttered her mascara-laden lashes, tossed her bouffant jet-black hair to one side and replied: “To make love, to be in love.” Then, warming to the theme: “He’s my man, so of course I dress up for him. Other times I don’t dress at all.”

Eriksson, who snaps, “I keep my private life private”, will not have enjoyed that. Nor, perhaps, her description of their rows — “Sven and I have incredible wars of silences; scary” — which she related to a newspaper earlier this year.

Even more alarming was her disclosure that they were thinking of adopting children. That appears to have been a real shock to the England coach who, reportedly, knew nothing about this dramatic development in his personal life.

Eriksson never speaks of his girlfriend in public, but the ubiquitous “friend” pops up regularly in the tabloids saying he wants to leave her, that she’s “tacky”, and that her overblown dress style — described by one critic as “Lily Savage chic” — is embarrassing.

Perhaps he does think that, perhaps he doesn’t. She takes it on the chin, attiring herself in ever-more dramatic fashion.

But Dell’Olio often speaks of him, and in terms that usually fuel the tabloid fantasy of their life together. She is his “geisha girl”, whose priority is to “please my man”. He is the hen-pecked man who “knows when to disappear” when she flies into a temper, which can happen “once a week, twice a week, every day”.

She has spoken too of her confidence in herself. “I’ve never thought of any woman as my rival for a single second,” she has said. This, though, despite her bravura performance, may be her swan song. Having left her husband, Giancarlo Mazza, a major shareholder in the Italian club Lazio where Eriksson was coach, and followed her man to England, he has still not walked her up the aisle.

And, despite her comments about children, they have failed to materialise, along with the wedding ring. According to one unnamed “friend”, Dell’Olio has recognised that she no longer needs her Swede. “I want to be a celebrity in my own right,” she has reportedly said.

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