Liam Payne, the once baby-faced member of One Direction, is reportedly in a “blooming” relationship with Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, 32.
A ‘pal’ said, “Cheryl and Liam are in a relationship. It was unexpected, but they’ve both made each other incredibly happy.”
The ex-Girls Aloud singer who, five years ago, sat on the X Factor judging panel that catapulted Payne and his boy band to global stardom, have allegedly been secretly dating since December when they reunited on X Factor.
During their time on the show in 2008, Fernandez-Versini had nothing but kind words for the teen and his band mates, telling viewers, “You are great kids and I love chatting to you backstage, you are good lads, nice lads.”
The two became good friends after Fernandez-Versini signed with One Direction’s management company.
They also worked together professionally in 2014 after the boy band member remixed the singer’s song, I Don’t Care.
Tweeting the One Direction star, Cheryl quipped, “Thanks Payno, I love it,” along with dancing emojis.
A source said, “Cheryl has obviously known Liam for many years.
“They’ve always got on well because they are both northern and share many of the same interests.
“But there was never anything romantic between them in the past.”
An insider explained how their friendship progressed, “Their relationship developed very quickly in December after the X Factor final where One Direction gave their final performance before starting their hiatus.”
The source revealed that despite the difficult months, the smitten stars have been getting through their respective hardships together and revealed that the new relationship has given her a new lease of life.
“Cheryl is like a different person. She’s carefree and happy again. There’s a lot less stress in her life.”
Adding, “Liam was really struggling with the idea of life after the band to begin with – being in the spotlight and that level of fame had started to get to him. But he’s been so happy with Cheryl. He’s been telling people close to him that he’s madly in love.”
The pair has recently dropped some huge hints about their blossoming relationship – with what appeared to be a string of flirty Instagram comments to each other.
They attended the Brit Awards separately, but prior, Liam, 22, commented on one of Cheryl’s Instagram snap, saying “see you there babe” followed by a wink emoji.
A shirtless Payne also posted a picture of them lying down together in what appeared to be a bed or a sofa.
The One Direction star then changed his profile bio to say, ‘Happy.’
Their feelings for each other were also made clear on Saturday night when the pair was spotted strolling down the pet food aisle of a store in the UK.
The duo reportedly went to great lengths to keep a “steamy romantic getaway” to a “love island” on Valentine’s Day a secret from the prying eyes of the British press.
A “close pal” was willing to spill the beans on their cloak-and-dagger getaway.
“They had an amazing trip and it really made them believe they had something special together.
“Being able to completely unwind away from the world’s eye is not something that a member of the biggest boy band in the world and one of the UK’s biggest style icons get to do often.”
Any suggestions that this relationship might just be a passing fling, as Fernandez-Versini (formerly Cole/Tweedy), who is soon to be twice-divorced, have been put to rest by Payne’s new hand tattoo.
The inked rose artwork on his hand appears to be a loving homage to the horticultural illustrations that adorn Fernandez-Versini’s lower back and bottom, proving that Payne is indeed “madly in love” with the singer, as “close pals” have revealed.
Neither party has commented publicly on the reports of a romance, but it’s already the talk of many, as one bookmaker has offered odds that they will become engaged this year.
Coral is offering 6-1 that one-half of the rumoured showbiz power couple will make a proposal in 2016, also offering 2-1 the couple will perform a duet in the next 10 months and 1-3 to simply confirm they are an item.
John Hill, of Coral, said: “The betting suggests the rumours around Cheryl and Liam’s relationship are likely to be true as they are odds-on to confirm they are a couple this year.
“Some punters were quick to call this romance in December as we took bets on the pair hooking up in 2016 as part of our new year specials.”
Watch: Cheryl and Liam meet for the first time in 2008