Andres Iniesta, who netted the winning goal in the Johannesburg final against Holland in July, is among the contenders along with his Barcelona team-mates Xavi, Carles Puyol and David Villa.
Spain captain Iker Casillas and his Real Madrid colleague Xabi Alonso also make the shortlist along with Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas.
Fabregas is one of three Premier League players on the 23-man list of nominees. The others are Chelsea's Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba and Sunderland's Ghana frontman Asamoah Gyan.
Barca's Argentina forward Lionel Messi and Brazil right-back Daniel Alves, Atletico Madrid forward Diego Forlan - who scored five goals at the World Cup and received the Golden Ball award - and Real Madrid pair Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil make up 11 players nominated from La Liga.
Inter Milan quartet Samuel Eto'o, Julio Cesar, Maicon and Wesley Sneijder are also included after winning an unprecedented Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League treble last term, with their former boss Jose Mourinho heading the candidates for the inaugural World Coach of the Year award.
Messi is the reigning Ballon d'Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year.
The awards have now been merged, so the best player in the world will now be recognised by a single accolade - the FIFA Ballon d'Or.
The final decisions will be made by the captains and head coaches of the national teams as well as by international media representatives selected by France Football.
The winners will be revealed in Zurich on January 10.
Arsenal captain Fabregas spoke of his pride at being nominated.
On his official Twitter account, the Spain World Cup winner said: "Great honour to be once again nominated in the 23 players for the Ballon d'Or award. Very proud to be in the list with such great players."
World Player of the Year nominees: Xabi Alonso (Spain), Daniel Alves (Brazil), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Julio Cesar (Brazil), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Maicon (Brazil), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Muller (Germany), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Carles Puyol (Spain), Arjen Robben (Holland), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Holland), David Villa (Spain) and Xavi (Spain).
World Coach of the Year nominees: Carlo Ancelotti (Chelsea), Vicente del Bosque (Spain), Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Pep Guardiola, Joachim Low (Germany), Jose Mourinho (Inter Milan/Real Madrid), Oscar Tabarez (Uruguay), Louis Van Gaal (Bayern Munich), Bert van Marwijk (Holland) and Arsene Wenger (Arsenal).