CRISTIANO Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who between them have won the past six World Player of the Year awards, face opposition from Germany's World Cup-winning goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the shortlist announced by Fifa on Monday.
Ronaldo is the current holder of the title, having also won it in 2008. He scored a record 17 goals in a Champions League campaign as Real Madrid went on to win their 10th European Cup last term.
Messi, the only player to have won the award four times, failed to win a title this year with either Barcelona or Argentina. However, he was integral in his country reaching the World Cup final, where they lost 1-0 in extra-time to Germany.
The 27-year-old did pick up the consolation of Player of the Tournament.
If Neuer - who was outstanding in goal for Germany and for Bayern Munich as they won the domestic Double - triumphs, he would be only the second goalkeeper to win the award after the then Soviet Union's Lev Yashin.
The awards will be announced on Jan 12 in Zurich.
Coach of the year is to be fought out between Neuer's national coach Joachim Loew, Ronaldo's club handler Carlo Ancelotti, and Diego Simeone, who guided the far less moneyed Atletico Madrid to the Spanish title and the final of the Champions League.
The trio selected for the Puskas award for best goal are: Colombia's James Rodriguez, for his goal against Uruguay in the 2-0 victory in their World Cup last-16 clash; Dutchman Robin van Persie's leaping header against Spain in a World Cup group game; and an outsider, Irishwoman Stephanie Roche, for her goal for Peamount United against Wexford Youths on Oct 20 last year.
Roche doesn't make the Women's Player of the Year shortlist, which consists of Brazil's five-time winner Marta, Germany's European Player of the 2013-14 season Nadine Kessler and America's all-time record scorer Abby Warmbach, winner in 2012.
Asian Coach of the Year Norio Sasaki, who has been in charge of the Japanese national side since 2007; German Ralf Kellermann, who guided VfL Wolfsburg to the women's Champions League title, and his compatriot Maren Meinert, who coached Germany to the Fifa U-20 Women's World Cup, are in line for the Women's Coach of the Year crown.