Liam Payne has said that his One Direction bandmate Niall Horan and boss Simon Cowell “played cupid” to get him and Cheryl together.
The boyband star also said that, despite first meeting Cheryl on The X Factor when he auditioned at the age of 14 while she was a judge, he had not had his eye on her until he was older.
Liam, 23, told BBC Radio 1Xtra’s host A Dot that he and the 33-year-old singer – with whom he recently had a baby – were “hooked up” by Niall and Simon over a year ago.
Asked if their romance was something he had envisioned since he was a teenager, Liam replied: “It wasn’t something I definitely planned out.
“I wish I could say I was that confident – I wasn’t.
“It just came about one day. Niall came up to me and said, ‘You’ll never guess who’s got a crush on you?’ And I was like, ‘Who?’ He’s like, ‘Cheryl’.”
Having learned of Cheryl’s fondness for him, he said he was surprised.
He added: “Niall hooked it up. Simon kind of half hooked it up.
“I was saying something about Cheryl one night in (Simon’s) house, and he was like, ‘I think I know who is going to be the future Mrs Payne’, and I was like ‘Who are you on about?’
“He was like, ‘I’m not telling you, you’ll have to wait and see’.”
Liam said that Simon, their record label Syco Music’s boss, then embarrassed Cheryl another day as he told her that Liam was keen on her.
Liam added: “She left the room bright red. Then Niall told me this whole story and I was like, woah.
“(They) played cupid. If you ever need anything hooking up, those are your boys.”
Liam was asked if he is annoyed that people still refer to his partner as Cheryl Cole, her name when she was married to footballer Ashley Cole.
He said: “Her name is officially Cheryl Tweedy now, but to be honest it doesn’t really bother me, we have a kid together, there’s a lot more to our life.”
Cheryl changed her birth surname Tweedy to Cole when she married the sportsman in 2006 and then became Cheryl Fernandez-Versini following her marriage to Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini in 2014.
The pair were granted a decree nisi in October in their divorce proceedings, and she now goes by a mononym.
Liam said he is not sure if he and Cheryl will get married as he is “not a religious person”.
They welcomed son Bear in March this year after being an item for just over a year.
Liam released his debut solo single Strip That Down on Friday, which was co-written by Ed Sheeran and features Quavo from hip-hop group Migos.
One Direction took a hiatus in March last year which they promised fans would be temporary. Liam is the final member of the group to unveil his solo work since they took a break.