World Cup: WAGs to riches - The business of being perfect

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Story highlights

Secret world of a 'WAG' -- wives and girlfriends of football players

Under huge pressure to be "perfect" Barbie doll partners

Some women more successful than their sports star beaus

Is being a 'WAG' seen as a career move for some girls?

CNN  — 

Eye-popping physiques, multimillion dollar incomes, celebrity status – and that’s just the women.

When you’re dating one of the top footballers on the planet, the pressure to be “perfect” is huge.

In football’s answer to Hollywood, media scrutiny of elite players is fierce. And the paparazzi is just as hungry for images of their wives and girlfriends – dubbed “WAGs” by the British tabloids.

Lenses are snapped with even more ferocity during the World Cup, as Nancy Dell’Olio, former partner to ex-England team manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, found out to her cost.

“It is quite sexist and in many cases really not quite fair, the way they were looking at partners,” said the glamorous 52-year-old American-Italian lawyer, in her lilting European accent.

“It was quite intrusive, and that was independent of my will,” added Dell’Olio, who for almost a decade watched her high-profile relationship play out across the front and back pages of the press.

“But when you are next to a personality so important in football you become absorbed in that role.”

As with all social groups, there was a WAG hierarchy.

“There’s a difference between if you are the partner of the manager, than if you are the partner of a footballer,” says Dell’Olio in between sips of ginger tea, at London’s swank member’s only Club at the Ivy.

“It was always ‘Nancy Dell’Olio plus any other of what you might call WAGs,’” she adds with a raised eyebrow. “So in this way I was quite distinctive, I was never part of that world.”

She’s got the look

It’s a world of glossy women with shopping habits as expensive as their bodies, if you believe the stereotypes splashed across celebrity magazines.

In truth, partners face enormous pressures to live up to Barbie doll ideals of beauty.

“No one wants to be the ugly WAG,” says author and newspaper columnist “The Secret WAG,” wife of an England player who has kept her identity a mystery, while revealing the inner workings of her lavish lifestyle.

“We’re put under so much pressure to look as perfect as we can. We’re all striving to be the thinnest, the prettiest, the one with the nicest hair.”

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