While Messi, who last won the prize in 2015, enjoyed another year of stellar goalscoring feats, Barcelona's early Champions League exit and Argentina's failure to make the last eight of the World Cup have likely ruled him out of contention.
Ronaldo and Messi have won the award between them for the last 10 years. Messi has also won the award on five occasions.
Chelsea midfielder Kante was a pivotal figure in France's World Cup success and helped his club win the FA Cup in May.
The 30 Ballon d'Or nominees, revealed by France Football, have been released and consist of 11 Premier League players, 14 from La Liga, three from Ligue 1 and two from Serie A.
The Tottenham striker captained England to their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years in Russian Federation this summer. The victor of the prestigious Ballon d'Or organised by France Football magazine will be announced on December 3.
Eden Hazard gives Chelsea another player in the running after starring alongside De Bruyne at the World Cup, with England's Golden Boot victor Harry Kane also included.
S.Korean minister proposes US-N.Korea tradeoff
Rodong Sinmun , the official newspaper of the Workers' Party of Korea, underlined the point in an editorial Sunday. In recent weeks, North Korea has demanded nearly daily that the United States sign an end-of-war declaration.
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.
Real Madrid midfielder Isco, Liverpool's Brazilian Roberto Firmino and Uruguay's rugged defender Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid also got the nod.
During the turn of the decade FIFA and Ballon d'Or merged together and was presented as one prestigious award but that association came to an end in 2016.
In another first, the best under-21 player will receive the Kopa Trophy.
The Ballon d'Or has been awarded by France Football every year since 1956, with former England global Sir Stanley Matthews the first victor.