Roles now reversed in Real Madrid and Barca's cantera vs. cartera debate

When Real Madrid take the field at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Saturday evening for a friendly against Barcelona, they will do as the reigning La Liga and European champions for the first time in 60 years.

Barca, meanwhile, are without either one of those titles having achieved four domestic and continental doubles over the course of the last 12 years. While it is far too early to talk of a seismic shift in power at the summit of European football, there are plenty of indicators to suggest Real's reign may not be a brief one.

Zinedine Zidane has now had sufficient time to stamp his authority on the club and the squad and his players are largely a settled and content group. The Frenchman has moved swiftly to ship out those who were surplus to requirements and has once again been frugal -- so far -- in the transfer market. His achievements last season were based on improving what he had at his disposal, not buying the best available in the summer sales.

Zidane inherited a hugely talented squad but it was one that needed a fulcrum to become greater than the sum of its parts. The parallels with Pep Guardiola's early tenure at Camp Nou are obvious. So too is the fact that the last embers of that all-conquering side have burned out, the playing style indoctrinated during Guardiola's stewardship swept away by Luis Enrique's more direct approach. And there is little or nothing coming through at La Masia to complement the current first XI with both Sergi Samper and Carles Alena yet to fully convince. Enrique bemoaned as much under questioning about the lack of youth teamers making the step up on his way out of the club.

During the current US jaunt both clubs have taken a significant number of junior players but Real arguably have more that could make the grade, or already have. Achraf Hakimi is likely to earn a first-team squad place for 2017-18 while Borja Mayoral and Marcos Llorente will provide youthful cover up front and in defensive midfield, respectively. Others among the Real expedition also look promising: Oscar Rodriguez and Dani Gomez certainly have the potential to break into the first team in the future.

In addition to players coming through the ranks, Real have been busily bringing down the average age of the squad with back-ups now available for every first-team player: Theo Hernandez (19) and Dani Ceballos (20) will join Llorente (22), Mayoral (20) and Jesus Vallejo (20) in the senior squad next season. The combined transfer fee for those five players is €52 million. In 2015-16 Barca spent the same amount on Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, two squad members they can now not shift for love or money.

Ernesto Valverde is taking a step into the unknown at Camp Nou just as Zidane is consolidating at the Bernabeu. While undoubtedly an excellent coach, the former Villarreal, Valencia and Athletic Bilbao boss is taking on his first elite job and has neither the stellar playing career of his Real counterpart nor the experience from within, at a club he must now steer back to the summit of La Liga and Europe. He is also starting out on the back foot against the eternal rivals with a disjointed, ageing squad and serious question marks over one of his star players.

Neymar has so far scored all of Barca's goals on their US tour but the Brazilian looks likely to join PSG this summer in light of increasingly desperate bids for Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho. Messi is now 30: Andres Iniesta is surely in his last season at the club at the age of 33 and Gerard Pique has also celebrated his 30th.

Last summer was the nadir for Barca sporting director Robert Fernandez, in the attacking third at least. The best part of €65m was sent to Mestalla for Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer and neither can be described as an unqualified success. Barca's policy of poaching Valencia every summer has proved fruitful in the past but is now withering on the vine while Real's new vintage is maturing nicely. Jose Mourinho aimed a jibe at Manchester City ahead of the US derby over inflated transfer fees, but it could equally be applied to Camp Nou.

The age-old cantera vs. cartera debate -- the idea that Barca's success was based on youth-team policy while Real bought their trophies -- adds greater kudos to Zidane's achievements. After Neymar, Luis Suarez and €120m splashed out last summer for little tangible on-pitch improvement, that is now a stick that Barca can no longer wave in the direction of Madrid.

In terms of beatings, this season could potentially throw up nine Clasicos. How many lives do the Catalans have? Zidane will be eager to find out.

Saturday's game is an aperitif. The Spanish Supercup will be the first real test of where both clubs stand. After a couple of years of implementing a hugely successful transfer policy, Real are currently a rung or two higher up the ladder and have more than broken even while pulling clear of Barca at home and in Europe.