BARCELONA — Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho praised the superstar qualities of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the duo duelled each other to an entertaining stalemate on Sunday.
Both players scored twice as Barcelona drew 2-2 with Real Madrid to keep an eight-point lead over its archrivals intact.
The result ended Barcelona's perfect start to the league campaign as it dropped points for the first time in seven games, but provided yet another memorable chapter in the rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo, the two biggest names in the sport.
"It should be prohibited to say which is the best in the world," Mourinho said.
"They are both from another planet."
The draw allowed Atletico to draw level on top with Barca on 19 points as they confirmed their best start since 1995 with a last-gasp 2-1 home defeat of Malaga.
At Camp Nou Ronaldo put Madrid ahead in the 23rd minute from a pass by Karim Benzema to extend his scoring streak in "clasico" matches to six.
Then it was Messi's turn, as he took advantage of a defensive slip to level for Barcelona in the 31st minute, before adding a second goal in the 61st minute with a perfect free kick from almost 25 yards out.
But as Barcelona looked to seal the result, Mesut Oezil unlocked Barcelona's makeshift defensive line to set up Ronaldo to respond five minutes later and split the points.
Ronaldo added to his pair of hat tricks from the previous week, while Messi recorded his 17th career goal against Madrid, leaving him one short of equalling Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano's record.
"(Messi and Ronaldo) both try to do everything they can to help their teams and score goals," Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova said.
"If Ronaldo hadn't coincided with Messi, perhaps he would get even more recognition."
Not to be outdone, Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao also scored, including a 90th-minute winner, to earn a 2-1 win over third-place Malaga. The Colombian international leads the league with nine goals, one more than Messi and Ronaldo.
"(Messi) is still very young and we don't know where his limits are, seeing how he trains every day, the desire he brings to gets better," Vilanova said.
"I don't think we will ever see a player like him again."
The draw spoiled Vilanova's bid to become the first coach to lead Barcelona to seven wins in as many games to start the season.
Also on Sunday, Levante beat Valencia 1-0 thanks to Obafemi Martins' first-half goal, Granada downed Mallorca 2-1 for its first home loss, and Athletic Bilbao edged out Osasuna 1-0.