Ulrika brings the hype to an end by saying affair with Sven is over

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The Independent Online

After six days of the sort of slavering hype that only a mixture of Swedes, sex and football can generate in Britain, the final twist came in a rather dull eight words.

The Ulrika Jonsson and Sven Goran Eriksson Show was halted shortly after 3pm yesterday when the television presenter said: "I am no longer part of this relationship."

For those who had taken up the odds of at least one bookmaker that the pair would be married by the end of the year, it was the bitterest blow yet in the on-off saga of the nation's Scandinavian love match.

Ms Jonsson, 34, confirmed her liaison with the professorial England coach (until now the subject of a stony silence between the pair as their PRs fought it out) but said she was now calling it off.

The news brought immediate speculation that the encounter had just been one big publicity stunt, engineered to boost Ms Jonsson's career after she had retired from the public eye to care for her sick daughter, Bo, and before next year's publication of her autobiography.

But Ms Jonsson headed instead for the moral high ground. In a statement issued by her friend and agent, Melanie Cantor, the mother-of-two said she had no desire to distract her "lover" further: "Like everybody else, I wish Sven the very best for the World Cup.

"But I also have a job to do, both as a mother and as a professional, and would like to be allowed to continue without further speculation involving me and this relationship."

The statement came 48 hours after reports that Mr Eriksson, 54, had told Ms Jonsson, who is currently filming a new television show, that he wanted to put their affair on ice until after the World Cup.

Whether that provoked Ms Jonsson into yesterday's flurry was unclear, but she denied asking the England manager to choose between her and his 37-year-old Italian girlfriend, Nancy Dell'Olio.

Ms Jonsson added: "In the hope of dispelling further rumours, I would like to make clear I have never issued him with any ultimatums."

Mr Eriksson was at the Premiership clash between Arsenal and West Ham last night. An FA spokesman said: "He has never commented on his private life and that remains his intention."

But neither Mr Eriksson's reticence nor Ms Jonsson's statement are likely to quell the hypothesising about the true nature of their relationship.

News of their affair last Friday was followed within 24 hours by Ms Jonsson's appearance at Chelsea's match with Manchester United. Just 10 seats away sat Mr Eriksson.

"Close friends" of the presenter said that she had bought tickets for the game months earlier and that her appearance so close to her paramour was "coincidence".

But the fog of rumour grew thicker yesterday when Ms Jonsson's former boyfriend, the millionaire PR guru Simon Astaire, was spotted lunching with Ms Dell'Olio. Mr Astaire, 40, explained that it had been a business appointment relating to a football charity, and neither Ms Jonsson nor Mr Eriksson had been mentioned.

But the disclosure that Ms Jonsson has signed a deal with publishers Sidgwick & Jackson for an autobiography added to the scepticism. Certainly the publisher lost no time in highlighting the book.

A spokeswoman gushed: "We know what we have read in the papers, but this book will prove how little we really know about her extraordinary life and strength of personality."

With the notoriously private Eriksson in no need of extra publicity for his own commercial ventures (including a triple CD of his favourite classical music and a computer game), others poured cold water on the notion that it was all a fix.

Another "close friend" of Ms Jonsson said last night: "It's grossly unfair to both of them. What would Ulrika have to gain from kissing and telling only to find herself portrayed as a publicity-seeker?"

It seemed the only people to see any immediate profit from the saga last night were the bookies. William Hill, which had put the likelihood of a wedding at 33-1, immediately lengthened the odds to 66-1.

Rumour mill - dream PR 'couples'

Geri Halliwell and Chris Evans were "revealed" to be a couple in November 1999, a day after her single 'Lift Me Up' had been released.

The pair had a fake wedding on Evans' radio show and the single went to number one. Both were clients of Matthew Freud's PR firm and the 'romance' was over within a week.

Nicole Kidman's divorce from Tom Cruise created a whole new field of PR opportunities. She was linked with a string of eligible bachelors including Robbie Williams.

The pair were said to have enjoyed a string of dates at the end of last year ­ coinciding with the release of their duet of the Frank Sinatra song 'Somethin' Stupid'.

Julia Roberts and George Clooney were rumoured to have become an item during the shooting of Ocean's Eleven, after her split with Benjamin Bratt. Stories about their on-set chemistry did the film's promotion no harm. Since its release the rumours have faded and Clooney has been seen with actress Krista Allen.