Is Liverpool owner's wife the new queen of the WAGs?
The glamorous face peering down from the directors' box at Liverpool's Europa League match on Thursday night wasn't a pop star or gossip column regular. Linda Pizzuti had the looks – and was credited with inspiring the impressive hat-trick from captain Steven Gerrard in his side's 3-1 defeat of Napoli – but the new darling of the Kop is far from an average WAG.
Pizzuti, 31, is the wife of Liverpool's new transatlantic overlord, billionaire Boston Red Sox owner John W Henry, who joined his wife to check up on his £300m investment. She cheered along gamely, but underneath the perfect hair, expensive jewellery and leather gloves, Pizzuti defies the shopping bags-and-limo stereotype.
As charming as she is well-heeled, Pizzuti quickly embraced the crowd at Anfield. Ahead of her visit, she was even on Twitter canvassing support from the Liverpool loyalists.
"Studying up in the Anfield songbook to prepare for my first LFC match tomorrow night. Can't wait!" she wrote. "What songs should I learn?" The Kop loved her back. "We welcome you to our Red Army with open arms!" one Scouser tweeted.
Pizzuti has a Masters in property management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and works for her Italian immigrant father's real estate company in Boston, alongside her three older sisters. She is well-travelled, having climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and dived in search of shipwrecks in the Philippines.
It was during a visit to Prague that a besotted Henry, 61, pursued her with a string of emails and phone calls.
When he won her over – on the condition that she keep her name – their wedding on his yacht was followed by spectacular reception for 400 guests including comedian Larry David and film-makers the Farrelly brothers, as well as the band Maroon 5, who performed.
But despite the trappings of celebrity, the couple are as earnest as they are showy. Henry, who bought the Red Sox in 2002 for £435m, is worth a reputed billion dollars, thanks to a successful career in futures and foreign exchange trading. He is known for mechanical efficiency in his business dealings.
Pizzuti, meanwhile – whom Henry met at a bar in 2008 – has a passion for sustainability and recently managed a project of green houses in her hometown of Lynnfield, Massachusetts.
Pizzuti has immediately struck a different note to the WAGs now lambasted for decadent lifestyles and near-compulsive shopping. She is one of a number of women on the periphery of football who match style with substance.
Television presenter Christine Bleakley, who is dating Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, has consistently rejected the WAG label, citing her untamed curly hair as proof she has weightier issues on her mind.
Anfield's love affair with Pizzuti will have to stand the test of time – and results – but she has impressed the faithful enough to stake a claim as the thinking man (and woman's) WAG.
"New Queen of Anfield?" another supporter mused on Twitter. "Undoubtedly," came the response.
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