The 22-year-old singer - who left the group's world tour last week due to stress - has announced he is leaving the band to lead a ''normal'' life out of the spotlight.
He said: ''My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined. But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I'd like to apologise to the fans if I've let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart. I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22 year old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight. I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.''
The remaining members of the group - Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Harry Styles - will continue as a four-piece and have reassured fans that their world tour and recording of their fifth album will still go ahead.
They said in a statement: ''We're really sad to see Zayn go, but we totally respect his decision and send him all our love for the future. The past five years have been beyond amazing, we've gone through so much together, so we will always be friends. The four of us will now continue. We're looking forward to recording the new album and seeing all the fans on the next stage of the world tour.''
Simon Cowell, who signed the group to his Syco label after they came third on 'The X Factor' in 2010, admitted he is ''truly sorry'' to see Zayn leave but is confident the group still have a bright future ahead of them.
He said: ''I would like to say thank you to Zayn for everything he has done for One Direction. Since I first met Zayn in 2010, I have grown very, very fond - and immensely proud - of him. I have seen him grow in confidence and I am truly sorry to see him leave. As for One Direction, fans can rest assured that Niall, Liam, Harry and Louis are hugely excited about the future of the band.''
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