Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed out on the top three despite a superb season with Paris Saint-Germain that saw him score an endless stream of dazzling goals.
Ribery was the star player in the Bayern Munich team that won the treble of Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and Champions League last season, but is still considered an outside bet to win the award.
Messi spearheaded Barcelona's Liga success last season, but injuries have kept him from producing his best football in the last few months, hurting his chances of claiming his fifth consecutive Ballon d'Or.
Ronaldo had been expected to miss out until a few months ago, but his outrageous goalscoring so far this season for Real Madrid - 25 goals in 18 matches - allied to his devastating play-off hat-trick to put Portugal into the World Cup have turned things around.
That display against Ibrahimovic's Sweden came after the initial voting deadline had passed for the coaches, international team captains and journalists who make up the expert panel.
But FIFA controversially extended the deadline for votes after Ronaldo's heroics, also allowing the panel to change their original votes. As a result, Ronaldo is now a 1-2 odds-on favourite with most bookies.