“Rihanna was Simon’s ultimate choice and was right at the top of ITV’s hit list, X Factor sources tell the Star on Sunday.
“Having her on the panel next to Cheryl and Simon would have been a ratings-winning dream team but everyone has accepted it’s not going to happen now.
Louis is now likely to be back after seeing off Tinie.”
Rihanna, 26, had top-secret talks about joining the show while in the UK last month.
Although Simon denied a one-on-one meeting, he did say the Stay singer was too busy to commit. The music mogul said: “I think she would like to do it but I doubt she would have the time.
“You need a continual 11-week run, so I can’t see it happening.”
The final panel is now likely to be Simon, Cheryl, 30, Louis, 61, and Mel, although Simon said that nothing was certain.
Chatting at The London Cabaret Club’s launch at The Collection, he said: “We are waiting to see if Louis is back before deciding the fourth spot.
“ITV and Cheryl don’t want him to come back but he will be if I get my way. “We’ve seen a few people for the job but I think ITV are slowly coming round to my way of thinking.
“Louis is very underrated. “People are finally realising how good he is.”
‘It is all sorted,’ Louis told The Sun. ‘I am coming back. I just have to sign the contract.’