Leicester City’s Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez and Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been named in a 30-man shortlist for the annual Ballon d’or award.
The shortlist has traditionally been trimmed to three players before the awards evening in January.
France Football, the sole organisers of the prize given to the best footballer in the world following a split from Fifa, revealed Vardy was in contention in a tweet published on Monday evening.
The Sheffield-born player is the only Englishman nominated, while Real Madrid’s Bale represents Wales after his heroics at Euro 2016. In total, eight Premier League players have been nominated.
Manchester City and city rivals United will hope Sergio Agüero, Kevin De Bruyne, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba threaten the top three when journalists begin the next round of voting, while West Ham’s free-kick specialist Dimitri Payet and the Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris are also contenders.
Regular victors Messi and Ronaldo – the latter having endured a lean year by his usual prolific standards – will face stiff competition from Luis Suárez, Neymar and Robert Lewandowski.
Breakthrough stars Paulo Dybala, Antoine Griezmann and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will provide further cause for concern to the world game’s established top order.
Among the surprise omissions from the list are the Manchester United keeper David de Gea, Arsenal’s playmaker Mesut Özil and the Juventus centre-back Leonardo Bonucci.