The 23-man shortlist for the prestigious world player of the year award was announced this morning, with the winner to be unveiled on January 13 in Zurich.
Bale, 24, became the world's most expensive player when he joined Real Madrid from Tottenham for £85.3million in September after scoring 26 goals for Spurs last season.
Barcelona and Argentina forward Messi has won the award for the last four years, with Bale's Madrid team-mate Ronaldo consistently his nearest challenger.
Franck Ribery, who was named UEFA's best player in Europe for the 2012-13 season after helping Bayern Munich win the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup, is another prominent name on the shortlist.
Ribery is joined by club-mates Philipp Lahm, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger, while Barcelona also have Xavi, Andres Iniesta and summer signing Neymar among the candidates.
Paris St-Germain trio Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva have made the shortlist, while fellow Ligue 1 big-spenders Monaco have a contender of their own in Radamel Falcao, acquired from Atletico Madrid in the close season.
Five Premier League players - Manchester United striker Robin van Persie, Manchester City's Yaya Toure, controversial Liverpool frontman Luis Suarez, Chelsea winger Eden Hazard and Arsenal's recent addition Mesut Ozil - have made the cut.
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who retired at the end of last season, headlines a 10-man coach of the year shortlist along with Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Spain boss Vicente del Bosque.
Ballon d'Or shortlist: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid/Wales), Edinson Cavani (Paris St-Germain/Uruguay), Radamel Falcao (Monaco/Colombia), Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Belgium), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St-Germain/Sweden), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona/Spain), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich/Germany), Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund/Poland), Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich/Germany), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich/Germany), Neymar (Barcelona/Brazil), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal/Germany), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus/Italy), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/France), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich/Netherlands), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Portugal), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich/Germany), Luis Suarez (Liverpool/Uruguay), Thiago Silva (Paris St-Germain/Brazil), Yaya Toure (Manchester City/Ivory Coast), Robin van Persie (Manchester United/Netherlands), Xavi (Barcelona/Spain).
Coach of the year shortlist: Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid/ex-Paris St-Germain), Rafael Benitez (Napoli/ex-Chelsea), Antonio Conte (Juventus), Vicente Del Bosque (Spain), Sir Alex Ferguson (ex-Manchester United), Jupp Heynckes (ex-Bayern Munich), Jurgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund), Jose Mourinho (Chelsea/ex-Real Madrid), Luiz Felipe Scolari (Brazil), Arsene Wenger (Arsenal).
Congrats to them all