X Factor host Dermot O'Leary appears to have confirmed judge Gary Barlow will be leaving the show after the coming series - and hinted he would love to step onto the panel.
The TV presenter suggested Gary was bowing out after this year's show as he spoke on the red carpet at the world premiere of One Direction: This Is Us in London.
Viewers will see the 10th run of the series in the coming days when it returns to ITV.
Dermot's comment came as he discussed a possible return for Simon Cowell and seemed to back up a recent report that Gary was ready to move on at the completion of his third series as a judge.
He said: "If Simon comes back, the dynamic would be very different. Gary wouldn't be there - he'll be leaving at the end of this year. Simon is a great judge so we'd welcome him back, but Gary's been such a great head judge as well."
"Oh yeah man. I'd love to judge. I'd be so strict - I'd be nice and strict. I'd be so hardcore. I'd say it how it is," he said.
Gary, who is said to want to focus on his career with Take That, has remained tight-lipped about his future on The X Factor which he joined in 2011, saying recently that it was "too early" to speculate about his involvement beyond the upcoming season.
A spokesman for the show said: "We are currently focusing on the forthcoming 10th series, and no decisions will be made on next year's judging panel line-up until further down the line."
Gary rejoins Louis and Nicole, while Sharon has returned to the show to replace Tulisa Contostavlos.
"It's a good panel this year. There's no b****iness to it, but they wind each other up," Dermot said. "Sharon's brilliant. Having Sharon back, she has just been a revelation, she really has. I hope she stays."
Louis has already said his time on The X Factor could be up after the 10th season, but Dermot, who has presented the ITV show since he took over from Kate Thornton in 2007, does not believe the Irish star will leave.
"I reckon Louis just says that in a Father Jack way," he said, referring to the Father Ted character.