SEVEN years as a band took One Direction from suburban anonymity to global stardom – with all the fame and fortune their teenage members could only dream of.
But 13 years after Simon Cowell first brought the five young strangers together at the height of The X Factor’s power, they faced vastly different fates.
Liam Payne, 30, was back in hospital in Italy this week battling new health problems due to ongoing kidney problems.
As might be expected, this caused concern among the group’s still loyal fans, with many linking the ambulance service abroad to his addiction issues, which resulted in him spending time in rehab.
As a pal put it: “It’s not a huge surprise – his lifestyle had been on something of a downward spiral for some time.”
As Liam rests in his hospital bed, supported by his girlfriend Kate Cassidy, 24, fans are hoping his recovery leads to an upturn in his health rather than prolonging the recent spate of health problems.
Yesterday his mother Karen revealed she is “sickly worried” about him and feels “helpless” over his recent scare. She added: “All we can really do is stay out here and hope for the best.”
“We feel helpless. It’s such a terrible situation and we just hope he’s doing as well as he can.”
Liam’s inner circle fears that the Wolverhampton-born singer has been partying non-stop since 1D announced their hiatus in 2015 – saying he has never truly enjoyed the band’s success or been allowed the freedom to do what he wants wanted.
The pal added: “Liam was struggling so much in the band because of the heavy workload and the fact that he was in the spotlight.
“Before One Direction he was just a normal boy, so living in this bubble felt alien to him and the restrictions took their toll.
“His parties since the band’s break could well be a reaction to that.”
Liam has been brutally honest about his health issues in recent years, including admitting he spent time in a US wellness clinic last year after “hitting rock bottom”.
He also told how a mysterious respiratory illness sidelined him in 2021.
However, worrying fans, he hinted that there were other incidents that he had not yet made public.
Liam has suffered from kidney problems since childhood when doctors discovered his organ was scarred after his premature birth, leading to him receiving 16 injections in his arm morning and evening.
As he grew older, his physical ailments worsened, but were overtaken by mental health concerns when Liam admitted turning to drink and drugs to hide how difficult he was finding it to get along with One
The dizzying level of fame of the director would trigger panic attacks and high levels of exhaustion.
In 2021, he blamed a “pill and alcohol phase” for causing his face to bloat “tenfold”, while also revealing that he devoured the contents of his minibar when band bosses checked the boys into hotels to entertain fans to keep at a distance.
But there are other reasons why followers are concerned for Liam’s well-being.
He appeared erratic in interviews, making bizarre claims including that Cowell built One Direction on the foundation of his talents and that his solo career was the most successful of all his bandmates.
Liam also made strange comments about his romance with ex-girlfriend Cheryl Tweedy, saying their 2018 split was partly due to their now six-year-old son Bear.
Since splitting from Cheryl, Liam’s love life has been as turbulent as his health concerns.
In 2019, he was linked to supermodel Naomi Campbell, 53.
And he had a three-year relationship with 22-year-old ex-fiancée Maya Henry, which reportedly ended for good in May last year.
Then pictures emerged of him holding American model Aliana Mawla, 25, in his arms.
He began dating Kate last year, but they briefly split before getting back together in June.
Fans were also curious about his physical appearance after pictures of his face sparked speculation that he had undergone plastic surgery.
Beauty experts believed he had undergone fat removal and procedures on his jaw, which would be rare for a well-toned man of his age.
Liam’s health problems come as his One Direction bandmate Harry Styles, 29, continues to do well – having established himself as one of the world’s leading music artists.
He has released extremely credible solo studio albums and won three Grammys and six Brit Awards.
Harry’s clean lifestyle and modesty are in stark contrast to Liam’s.
But Liam isn’t the only one living in Harry’s shadow, as his other bandmates have struggled to match the heartthrob’s success since One Direction’s hiatus, which for some is down to personal difficulties.
Louis Tomlinson, 31, was struck by tragedy after his sister Félicite died in 2019 as a result of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 18.
Three years earlier, his mother Johannah, 43, lost her battle with leukemia.
Father-of-one Louis recorded a No.1 album and enjoyed lots of wild partying.
But he hasn’t reached Harry’s heights yet and recently admitted he was disappointed when One Direction’s indefinite hiatus was announced.
He said: “When One Direction split up I was embarrassed, I was really disappointed.
“I guess I was a little bitter because it just felt like another loss to me.”
“But I understand things better now and the anger is not so great anymore. It is what it is.”
Zayn Malik, who left the band in 2015, had a promising start as a solo singer.
He made history on the US and UK charts by going straight to number 1 in both countries with his debut album Mind Of Mine.
But the 30-year-old star has become known more for his personal life than his music after an alleged altercation with Yolanda Hadid, the mother of his then-girlfriend Gigi.
In 2021, he split from the 28-year-old model.
Zayn has largely stayed out of the spotlight since then, continuing to raise almost three-year-old daughter Khai with Gigi.
However, he recently appeared on a podcast where he admitted that his decision to leave the band stemmed from a desire to become the first 1D member to have a solo career.
However, his last two albums had no chart success.
The latest star, Niall Horan, 30, has released three albums since 1D’s hiatus.
His biggest hit remains the single “Slow Hands”.
He is considered a solid professional musician but has yet to win any major awards as a solo artist, with some critics saying he is “too boring” to be a big star.
However, Niall is still the most down-to-earth and likeable member of One Direction, which he attributes to his “Irishness”.
In a speech in June, he said: “I’m very carefree, I kind of cross the bridge when I get to it and I just get on with things and see what happens.”
“I think Irish plays a big role. It’s just the way we are, there’s no gray area when you’re Irish. There is a certain modesty in it.
“I know you’re not supposed to say that, but I think there is.”
How Liam wishes his life was just as relaxed.