The shortlist will be whittled down to three top contenders in December, and the winner will be revealed at a ceremony in Zurich on Jan. 14, 2014.
Cristiano, 28, has lost to FC Barcelona forward Messi, 26, for the past four years, after winning the prestigious prize in 2008 while playing at Manchester United.
On Oct. 30, Ronaldo — the most expensive footballer in history — scored three goals against FC Sevilla in Real Madrid's season opener.
The hat-trick couldn't have come at a better time, as Cristiano is still fuming from comments FIFA president Sepp Blatter made earlier this week, when he implied Ronaldo was arrogant and too serious.
Blatter was responding to a question about which player he preferred: Messi or Ronaldo. Blatter, 77, said both were exceptional, but Messi is "a good boy," and the type of son every mother would want in her home.
By contrast, Blatter implied that Ronaldo was vain, saying he spent too much time styling his hair, and was too flashy and standoffish, which is why he believes Messi is more popular with fans (um, not with female fans).
Blatter has since backpedaled, saying he didn't intend to hurt anyone's feelings. But he has been criticized by team coaches, who say it's inappropriate for Blatter — as head of FIFA — to openly favor one player over another.
Ronaldo responded with a curt statement on Twitter to his 22 million followers: "[Blatter's words] show the respect and consideration that FIFA has for me, my club and my country. I wish Mr. Blatter health and a long life, with the certainty that he'll continue to witness the successes of his favourite teams and players."
Despite Blatter's diss, Ronaldo has been praised by both his teammates and rivals for his incredible work ethic and singular discipline.
“He is the first to arrive and the last to leave training," Cristiano's Real Madrid teammate Raúl told Spanish daily Marca. "I see him and say to myself, ‘I have to train harder.' He’s a wonderful guy, a total leader.”
Similarly, his FC Barcelona rival Gerard Pique (a teammate of Messi's), had nothing but praise for the Portuguese forward.
"[Cristiano Ronaldo] is a player that I have always admired because he is a hard worker who always wants more and more," Pique told Goal.
He is a real machine and very ambitious. He never ever stops trying to improve. Some say he is the best, but he still wants to get better, and for that reason I admire him.”
Teammates say Ronaldo trains both on the football pitch with his team and at the gym on his own, lifting weights and doing sprint work to improve his speed.
At 6-foot-1 and 186 pounds, Ronaldo is one of the fastest and fittest athletes to grace the world stage. Despite all his success, he has no intention of resting on his laurels. "I want to get better and better," he said. "My ambition is huge."