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 dominated the award since 2008 with five awards between then, but a Modric victory would end their decade-long domination of the prestigious honour.
England only have one representative on the list in Harry Kane while Gareth Bale is also among the nominees.
English Premier League: Arsenal 5-1 Fulham
Was that your team's best performance? And Ramsey added his goal of the season contender on 68 minutes to put the game to bed. Asked about the playmaker's injury, Emery replied: 'Yesterday he came in with pain and he could not train or play today'.
The names are released in groups of five throughout the day, with the full 30-player shortlist eventually being drawn up ahead of the awards ceremony in Paris on 3 December.
The Spain worldwide, who was named in the FIFA FIFPro World 11 last month, has not been included in the latest group of five nominees for France Football's individual prize.
Modric's global team-mates Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic are also on the shortlist, as are Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
In another first, the best under-21 player will receive the Kopa Trophy.
Emery hopes Cech injury is minor
Emery called on the pre-season signing from Bayer Leverkusen to seize his chance, saying: "I'm very happy with Leno". Arsenal stole the three points against Watford after two late goals in a match they far from dominated.
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.
The last player other than Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to win the award was Kaka in 2007, but in 2018, Real Madrid midfielder Modric, who took his team to the World Cup final in Moscow, as well as winning the Champions League, is set to break the duopoly.
However, FIFA ended its association with the award in September 2016.
The Ballon d'Or, which was first won by Englishman Stanley Matthews in 1956, is decided by a ballot of journalists from around the world.
Three studs from Carolina Panthers win over New York Giants
Barkley finished with more receiving yards (81) than rushing (48) and scored twice through the air. Carolina has had a week off and is no doubt ready to get back on the field.