Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed that he tried to sign Lionel Messi as part of a treble swoop for some of Barcelona's top young talent.
Messi was 15 at the time and an academy team-mate of Gerard Pique and future Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
Wenger said: "We wanted to take Fabregas, Messi and Pique. It worked only for Fabregas."
Fabregas spent eight years at Arsenal before returning to Barcelona, while Pique joined Manchester United in 2004.
Messi, 27, has spent all of his senior career at the Nou Camp - helping Barcelona win six La Liga titles and the Champions League three times - after the possible move to England failed to materialise.
However, Wenger dismissed suggestions that the potential deal collapsed over an accommodation issue for Messi and his family. The Argentina international would also have required a work permit.
Wenger added: "I think in the end he was not so keen to move.
"It was not completely down to a flat in the end. It was down to the fact that Messi was comfortable at Barcelona."
Midfielder Fabregas, 27, played over 300 games for Arsenal after signing in 2003 and is now with Chelsea after three seasons back at Barcelona.
Fellow Spain international Pique also returned to Barcelona after playing 23 times for United and the defender, 27, has since played almost 300 games for the Catalans.