Simon Cowell on Zayn leaving One Direction: 'I wasn't expecting it to happen so quickly'
Simon Cowell didn't expect Zayn Malik to quit One Direction "so quickly".
The heartthrob left the boy band's On the Road Again Tour last month after being signed off with stress, and days later he announced he was also bowing out of the group.
The lads were discovered on Simon's UK TV show The X Factor in 2010 and he's guided their careers since, with the music mogul admitting he couldn't do anything to make Zayn stay in the band.
"I wasn’t expecting it to happen so quickly," he told MailOnline. "When this happens you just have to deal with it. I had to respect his wishes."
Zayn's former bandmates Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne have vowed to continue without him and will be working on a new album this year.
Although previous groups, such as Take That and the Spice Girls, have been rocked by losing a founding member, Simon sees no such problems on the horizon for One Direction.
"Having seen the shows they’ve done since he left… the reaction has been amazing," he explained. "So long as the boys want it, and I think they do, they’ll continue being as successful as ever – and Zayn will have a great career as well."
When he left, Zayn explained he wanted to live like a normal 22-year-old so didn't feel he could be in the band any more. However, the following day he was spotted in the recording studio with Naughty Boy and he then gave an interview saying the boy band didn't feel "real" to him anymore so he had to leave.
Producer Naughty Boy later posted a demo of their work on Twitter, with Simon saying he hasn't listened to it but praised Zayn's talent nonetheless.
Speaking to the BBC, Simon hinted he knew Zayn had been struggling for a while.
"Interestingly, with the guys, within days, once they got over the shock they were like united, strong," he said.
"They put on some incredible shows afterwards. The future's bright, I think."