The live rounds don’t even kick off until next weekend, but The X Factor’s Louis Walsh already seems to have picked his winner.
In an exclusive interview with this week’s HELLO!, the 58-year-old judge cites Essex painter and decorator Matt Cardle as his tip for the top.
“The winner is going to be the one with the most votes, but I think Matt has got something very special about him,” says Louis, who is interviewed at his chic and minimalistic new Miami home, seen for the first time in HELLO!
The revelation may come as a surprise to Louis’ group, the “Overs”. A last minute change in rules this year means the minimum age for this group is 29, instead of the usual 26.
At 27, Matt would have been in Louis’ camp in previous years. As it is, Matt has got Dannii Minogue as his mentor.
But despite initial bad feeling between Louis and the petite Aussie judge when she first joined the show, Louis says he and Dannii now get on brilliantly, so much so, they’ve formed an alliance against fellow judges Cheryl and Simon.
“That is true and it will be like that this year,” he says.
“I found I’d been involved in a feud,” he says, referring back to Dannii’s fall out with fellow judge Sharon Osbourne, “and then I discovered that Dannii has a really good side and is a great judge.
“Dannii is really hard working and she cares about her contestants and I’ve really seen another side of her. She cares about the acts. This year she’s got the boys. Even though she was off during her pregnancy she was very much involved and kept informed of everything that was going on.”
The Westlife manager also talks about his relationship with Simon Cowell, who he describes as “a big influence” in his life”.
“It’s very hard to meet somebody that you’re comfortable with who really knows you,” he says, but still can’t resist a swipe at the media mogul’s famed vanity. “He grooms himself to death - he’s actually getting younger looking with every series.”
“(But) he’s a brilliant judge of what people want and he works very hard. Of all of us he works the hardest.” But asked who he thinks is the most ambitious, he doesn’t hesitate. “Simon works too hard to be ambitious. Cheryl is the most ambitious.”
SEE THE FULL EXCLUSIVE STORY IN HELLO! MAGAZINE, OUT NOW.