Argentine superstar Messi and Portuguese hero Ronaldo, of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, are joined by Frenchman Ribery who won the Champions League as Bayern Munich completed a historic treble.
Messi scored 46 Liga goals as Barca romped to the title while Ronaldo hit 12 goals for Madrid in the Champions League.
The award, which is voted on by journalists from each of UEFA's member national associations, fills the void left by the Ballon d’Or which merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2010 to become the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
Messi won the inaugural UEFA Best Player in Europe award in 2011 before Blaugrana team-mate Andres Iniesta claimed it last year, with Messi and Ronaldo also nominated. Messi has won the last four Ballon d’Or awards.
The overall winner will be decided in a live vote in Monaco during the draw for this season’s Champions League group stage on Thursday August 29.
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery have been shortlisted for last season’s UEFA Best Player in Europe award.
Positions four to 10 are set following the first round of voting, with journalists rating their top five players in order of importance - with, Gareth Bale, who is reportedly subject of a world-record bid from Real Madrid, out of the running to pick up the award having polled eighth.
4 Arjen Robben (NED) – Bayern
5 Robert Lewandowski (POL) – Borussia Dortmund
6 Thomas Müller (GER) – Bayern
7 Bastian Schweinsteiger (GER) – Bayern
8 Gareth Bale (WAL) – Tottenham Hotspur
9 Zlatan Ibrahimović (SWE) – Paris Saint-Germain
10 Robin van Persie (NED) – Manchester United