Michael Slezak
July 24, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Paula Abdul’s contract dispute with American Idol execs has turned…a little pitchy. On July 17, her manager, David Sonenberg, took her grievances public, telling the Los Angeles Times that ”very sadly, it does not appear that she’s going to be back” next season.

Really? Reps for Abdul and Idol refused comment, but Simon Cowell — who’s locked in to Idol through next year — told Extra he’s ”made it clear that I want Paula on the show.” And host Ryan Seacrest, who recently inked his own three-year, $45 million deal, said on Twitter he ”can’t imagine” Idol without her.

Still, with the show set to start filming Aug. 6, time is running out for Abdul and still-contractless Kara DioGuardi (who also declined comment). That could explain why Abdul’s manager felt compelled to speak out, says one TV studio exec: ”Turning to the press is a last-ditch effort” when negotiating.

In the end, Abdul’s posturing could work in everyone’s favor. She’ll get more cash and keep Idol (not back on air until mid-January) in the news. ”Publicity never hurts,” says Scott Sternberg, an exec on her short-lived reality show, Hey Paula. ”It’s great intrigue.”
Additional reporting by Lynette Rice

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