Ronaldo and Messi have won the award between them for the last 10 years.
The award merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year prize from 2010-15 to create the FIFA Ballon d'Or, but returned to France Football magazine in 2016 while FIFA established The Best awards. The award ceremony takes place on December 3.
Roberto Firmino from Brazil, Liverpool and Diego Godin from Uruguay, Atletico Madrid.
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne are contenders while Liverpool's formidable top three Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were all included.
Four goalkeepers are also among the 30 - Thibaut Courtois of Belgium and Real Madrid, Liverpool and Brazil stopper Alisson Becker, Tottenham's France World Cup victor Hugo Lloris and Atletico's Jan Oblak.
Remember the criteria for the Ballon d'Or are: the players' performances during the calendar year, their talent and fair play, and their achievements throughout their career.
France internationals Amandine Henry, Amel Majri and Wendie Renard are joined on the list by Germany's Dzsenifer Marozsan, England's Lucy Bronze, Ada Hegerberg of Norway and Japan defender Saki Kumagai.
In another first, the best under-21 player will receive the Kopa Trophy.
Bale's club-mate Luka Modric, who is yet to be named as a candidate, is among the early favourites after Real's European success against the Reds and leading Croatia to the World Cup final.
Sir Stanley Matthews won the first Ballon d'Or in 1956.