Simon Cowell opened up about Zayn Malik leaving One Direction on Saturday, Nov. 14, saying he knew it would eventually happen Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

He knew all along. Simon Cowell discussed Zayn Malik’s exit from One Direction earlier this year on Saturday, Nov. 14, saying he knew it would happen all along.

“I knew Zayn was going before it happened,” Cowell, 56 — the boy band’s manager and creator — told Event magazine. “He was unhappy. My concern was actually for the boys. Zayn wasn’t in a great place but it was his decision to leave, he wasn’t kicked out. He wanted to distance himself. My responsibility was to the boys because they had no warning.”

Malik, 22, left the British boy band back in March, shocking devoted fans worldwide. On Monday, Nov. 2, the remaining four members of One Direction — Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, and Niall Horan — presented a Music Industry Trust Award to Cowell at the Music Industry Trust Awards. The X Factor judge made a joke, quipping, “Who needs Zayn?” Cowell later apologized for the joke.

“I just kind of thought when I was standing on stage with them, that they were back to being five,” he explained to New York’s Fresh 102.7 on Friday, Nov. 6. “So I apologize to any Zayn fans out there. It was meant as a joke.”

The superstar boy band performed at the last stop of their On the Road tour late last month, sharing emotional hugs on stage.

“Gonna miss doing shows for a while,” Horan, 22, wrote on Twitter the next day. “Thank you anyone who has come to watch us live over the last few years, it’s incredible to be able to play our music live for you.”

The band — who just released their fifth studio album, Made in the A.M., on Friday, Nov. 13 — is going on a temporary hiatus through next year.

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