When the long list of 30 candidates was announced Monday -- in the city where Neymar has played for more than two years at Paris Saint-Germain -- the Brazil star's name was missing from the nominations by a global voting panel of journalists.
Messi and Ronaldo's 10-year grip on the individual award organized by France Football magazine was broken by Luka Modric last December.
Modric is also absent one year after he swept the Ballon d'Or and FIFA best player awards after a stellar 2018 with Real Madrid and Croatia.
World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe is favored to add a Ballon d'Or to her FIFA award won last month.
The United States star is joined on a 20-woman list by teammates Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan. Defending her title is Ada Hegerberg, winner of the inaugural women's award, from Europe's dominant club team Lyon which has six nominees. Australia captain and NWSL golden boot winner Sam Kerr has also been nominated.
Neymar has twice placed third in Ballon d'Or voting, both times finishing behind Messi and Ronaldo. Moving out of Messi's shadow in Barcelona, where they won a Champions League title together in 2015, has not delivered the personal acclaim Neymar sought.
Messi won his sixth FIFA award last month, edging Van Dijk who starred in Liverpool's Champions League-winning team.
Van Dijk would be the first defender topping the poll since Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.
Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum also figured in the five nominees from a resurgent Netherlands team. No Dutch player has won since Marco van Basten in 1992.
The only Asian player on the list is South Korea forward Son Heung-min of Champions League finalist Tottenham.
The awards ceremony is Dec. 2 in Paris.
Full list of Men's Ballon d'Or nominees:
Sergio Aguero (Argentina, Manchester City)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (England, Liverpool)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon, Arsenal)
Alisson Becker (Brazil, Liverpool)
Karim Benzema (France, Real Madrid)
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium, Manchester City)
Frenkie De Jong (Netherlands, Ajax/Barcelona)
Matthijs de Ligt (Netherlands, Ajax/Juventus)
Joao Felix (Portugal, Benfica/Atletico Madrid)
Roberto Firmino (Brazil, Liverpool)
Antoine Griezmann (France, Atletico Madrid/Barcelona)
Eden Hazard (Belgium, Chelsea/Real Madrid)
Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal, Napoli)
Robert Lewandowski (Poland, Bayern Munich)
Hugo Lloris (France, Tottenham)
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria, Manchester City)
Sadio Mane (Senegal, Liverpool)
Marquinhos (Brazil, Paris Saint-Germain)
Kylian Mbappe (France, Paris Saint-Germain)
Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Juventus)
Mohamed Salah (Egypt, Liverpool)
Bernardo Silva (Portugal, Manchester City)
Son Heung-Min (South Korea, Tottenham)
Raheem Sterling (England, Manchester City)
Dusan Tadic (Serbia, Ajax)
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Germany, Barcelona)
Donny van de Beek (Netherlands, Ajax)
Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands, Liverpool)
Georginio Wijnaldum (Netherlands, Liverpool)
Full list of Women's Ballon d'Or nominees:
Kosovare Asllani (Sweden, Linkopings/Tacon)
Sarah Bouhaddi (France, Lyon)
Lucy Bronze (England, Lyon)
Pernille Harder (Denmark, Wolfsburg)
Ada Hegerberg (Norway, Lyon)
Amandine Henry (France, Lyon)
Nilla Fischer (Sweden, Wolfsburg/Linkopings)
Tobin Heath (United States, Portland Thorns)
Sofia Jakobsson (Sweden, Montpellier/Tacon)
Sam Kerr (Australia, Perth Glory/Chicago Red Stars)
Rose Lavelle (United States, Washington Spirit)
Dzsenifer Marozsan (Germany, Lyon)
Marta (Brazil, Orlando Pride)
Lieke Martens (Netherlands, Barcelona)
Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands/Arsenal)
Alex Morgan (United States, Orlando Pride)
Megan Rapinoe (United States, Seattle Reign)
Wendie Renard (France, Lyon)
Sari van Veenendaal (Netherlands, Arsenal/Atletico Madrid)
Ellen White (England, Manchester City)