Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz Break Up

Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz Break Up
Diaz and Timberlake in New York City on Sept. 9
Dynamic Image/Splash News

01/11/2007 AT 05:40 PM EST

After almost four years together, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake have called it quits, the couple said in a statement Thursday.

"It has always been our preference not to comment on the status of our relationship, but, out of respect for the time we've spent together, we feel compelled to do so now, in light of recent speculation and the number of inaccurate stories that are being reported by the media," the pair said. "We have, in fact, ended our romantic relationship, and have done so mutually and as friends, with continued love and respect for one another."

Diaz, 34, and Timberlake, 25, met in April 2003 at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, and by July, Diaz had joined her new beau on the road as he toured with Christina Aguilera.

They seemed at first like an unlikely pair: A former 'N Sync-er, Timberlake previously dated Britney Spears; Diaz had been in relationships with fellow movie stars Matt Dillon and Jared Leto.

And then there was their nine-year age difference. "It's not like this is the first time in the history of human relationships that people were drawn to one another because of who they are, not what age they are," Diaz told W in 2004.

But they surprised skeptics, staying together despite relentless rumors of strife. In July 2004, Timberlake filed a libel suit against the British tabloid News of the World after it claimed he'd cheated with model Lucy Clarkson, and in May 2005, Diaz sued U.K. tab The Sun for suggesting she'd had an affair with Shane Nickerson, the producer of her MTV adventure show Trippin'.

Along with breakup rumors, they faced near constant speculation that they were engaged. In August 2004, Diaz was spotted wearing a gold band on her left ring finger, but her rep denied the couple were altar-bound. Another source told PEOPLE at the time: "Cameron has always said she has no interest in getting married."

That was their story, and they stuck to it. In September 2006, Timberlake told Ellen DeGeneres she could buy a dress for their wedding – then quipped, "The only thing is, you'll have to stay the same size for the next 15 years."

Two months later, Diaz made her own appearance on DeGeneres's show, and told the host of getting married: "I'm a commitment-phobe. Don't want to do it."

Earlier this week, Timberlake kicked off his FutureSex/LoveShow tour. Meanwhile Diaz collected a trophy for favorite leading lady at the People's Choice Awards on Tuesday.

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