Girlfriend of soccer ace Cristiano Ronaldo and Russian supermodel, Irina Sheik has scored the coveted spot as the covergirl of the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

The photos of the 25-year-old brunette were leaked ahead of the official unveiling on The Late Show With David Letterman, as the New York City billboard was left exposed for enough time to allow people to get shots of the cover on their cell phones.

The leaked photos of Sheik in a pink and yellow halter neck bikini hit the microblogging site Twitter first.

Rana Wardlaw, a New Yorker working with a media company, who spotted the billboard said it was unveiled for a few minutes to tape it for the Letterman Show.

I guess they didn't cover it fast enough! Ms Wardlaw is quoted as saying in many media reports.

Over the past week, the Big Apple was decked with photo mock-ups featuring Irina, Brooklyn and another Russian beauty, Anne Vyalitsyna, generating curiosity and anticipation among many to see who would make it to the Sports Illustrated cover this year.

Sheik has appeared in the famed swimsuit edition five times. However, the 2011 edition is the first time she has been featured on the cover. The stunning model's covers include GQ Spain, GQ South Africa, and Elle Spain.

Sheik has been seeing Ronaldo since 2010.