Simon Cowell suspected Zayn Malik was on the verge of quitting One Direction weeks before he walked out on his bandmates.
The British singer shocked fans by exiting the group's world tour last month (Mar15) and then announcing his departure from the line-up, insisting he decided to quit in a bid to live a "normal" life.
Cowell, who created the boyband on Britain's The X Factor in 2010 and steered their career ever since, has now admitted he knew about Malik's troubles for some time and attempted to convince him to stay.
During an appearance on The Late Late Show, Cowell tells host James Corden, "I kind of knew this was coming to be honest. I'd had a few conversations with him, he wasn't happy and I was trying to say to him, 'No I think you should stay around a bit longer'. But something inside him said he'd had enough... I saw him in person as well - but once someone has made their mind up they are going to go. At the same time I don't want to push him too much because he's 22 and I could see he was a bit stressed and needed some time off."
Cowell goes on to explain his first priority was looking after the remaining members of One Direction, and he felt proud of the singers for carrying on with the tour without their friend.
He adds, "Once the decision was made I dealt with it, then I made sure the guys were OK - because they were shocked as well... For the boys it was interesting because they were in the middle of these live shows at the time. Then I watched the show back and they were incredible... I have a feeling they are going to deliver the best record they have ever made."
One Direction are currently working on their fifth studio album, their first record without Malik.