Simon Cowell hopes he is still ‘close friends’ with Cheryl Cole after dropping her from the US version of The X Factor.

He said he took ‘full responsibility’ for the decision to replace Cheryl with former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger on the judging panel.

It was reported Cheryl had lost the job last month – only three weeks after she was first given it.

That led to feverish press speculation about her next career move and the state of her relationship with Cowell.

He told the Daily Mirror he was worried the Newcastle-born star was ‘uncomfortable’ in America and offered to give her a place back in the UK show which would have earned her around £2.5 million.

When she refused that, Simon said he offered to take her back to America, but she again turned him down.

He said: “The hardest thing to accept is that everyone has painted me as a monster because I embarrassed her, but the truth was I was protecting her. I just want people to be in the best place at the right time.”

Simon said he had received a text from Cheryl saying she felt let down, but understood the decision.

He said: “We are close friends. I still hope we are but sometimes when you’re that close, when you’re making these decisions with someone’s life, you have to be certain.”