And then there were six. Or more. Jaume Costa and Joselu Moreno in the first category. Moisés Gómez, Florian Lejeune, Diego Mariño, and Manu Trigueros in the second.
Villarreal's new manager will inherit six recruits for the 'A' team, by way of Juan Carlos Garrido, José Francisco Molina, and Julio Velázquez. A goalkeeper, left back, center back, two midfielders, and a striker. Not a bad young backbone for a promotion contender.
We wrote this story on Garrido's nine back in the day. Let's compare the two groups of youngsters by position.
Goalkeeper: Juan Carlos (Garrido) v. Mariño (Velázquez).
Juan Carlos was promoted from the 'B' team for good in 2010. But his only league appearance came in 2008; Diego López was sent off early against Almería. Juan Carlos featured in the 2010-11 Copa del Rey against Poli Ejido, Valencia, and Sevilla, but that was the extent of his playing time. So he went to Elche on loan this past season.
Mariño has started the majority of the 'B' team's matches the past two seasons (if not on Spanish youth international duty). At age 22, he is ready for consideration for the full-time job. If not, it's rumored that his hometown club Celta Vigo may offer Primera football.
Verdict: A wash; slight edge to whoever wins the starting job this year.
Defenders: José Manuel Catalá, Mario Gaspar, Mateo Musacchio & Joan Oriol (Garrido) v. Costa & Lejeune (Velázquez).
With Catalá's ability to play in the middle, Garrido had a full back four at his disposal. Musacchio has been a mainstay in the middle after Diego Godín's departure (pay us, Atlético Madrid!), while Mario has alternated with the now-departed Ángel López at right back. Oriol and Catalá have split time on the left after Joan Capdevila's ill-fated move to Benfica.
Jaume Costa is the latest to try his hand at left back. Based on his performances at the end of last season, he may stick. Lejeune is a sure-fire ringer that we bought on the cheap last summer from French second-division side Istres. Another year to adapt to life and football in Spain, then watch out.
Verdict: Garrido's unit, but the gap is narrowing by the day.
Midfielders: Cristóbal Márquez & Javier Matilla (Garrido) v. Gómez & Trigueros (Velázquez).
Cristóbal didn't make many squads, then left in a relatively lucrative deal for Ukrainian side Karpaty Lviv. Now he's back with our neighbors Elche in the Segunda. Matilla was highly-rated but never got out of the 'B' team. He's now with Real Betis and likely to be loaned out after an underwhelming debut campaign in Seville.
Moi Gómez is our version of Bojan Krkic: debuting with the 'A' team at age 17. And Moi made an impact in Málaga, nearly setting up a late equalizer. Old man Manu Trigueros (age 20) also impressed under Velázquez and should continue to grow in his second full season in the Segunda.
Verdict: Velázquez's duo, by a mile.
Strikers: Jefferson Montero & Marco Ruben (Garrido) v. Joselu (Velázquez).
Ecuadorean international Montero has not maximized his immense talent in three years in Spain. Ten goals for the 'B' team under Garrido, then only two in two Primera seasons with Villarreal, Levante, and Betis. Ruben's work ethic is irreproachable, but he has netted only 14 times in 65 first-team appearances. Him leading the line in 2011-12 contributed to our relegation.
Joselu is a bit of an enigma, perhaps unsurprising for a 21-year-old. He tore up the semi-professional ranks and forced his way into the 'B' team at the start of last season. After torching the Segunda to start the year (its pichichi for a number of weeks), he was called up by Garrido to spark an injury-riddled front line. Just like his teammates, he was unable to score against top-flight opposition, but the slump followed him back to the Segunda.
Verdict: Garrido's excellent pair, particularly if Joselu continues to ask for a loan.
Overall: Too early to pick a winner. Great that our cantera continues to churn out talent. Not quite La Masia, but more than enough for our humble club to stay afloat.