The Manchester United striker is the only Englishman on the 23-man shortlist for the trophy, which was released by Fifa on Tuesday.
He is joined by Sergio Aguero of Manchester City, United team-mate Nani and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. Also nominated is Cesc Fabregas who played a starring role for Arsenal before moving to Barcelona in the summer.
Meanwhile three Barclays Premier League managers have been nominated in the Coach of the Year category. They are Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, Chelsea's Andre Villas-Boas and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
Rooney has bounced back from a disappointing 2010, helping to guide United to their record 19th league title, reach their third Champions League final in four seasons and contribute to a rapid start to this campaign before the derby defeat to Manchester City.
Yet the only other United player listed for the award is Nani, who won his Club's Players' Player of the Year prize but was left out of the starting line-up for the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona at Wembley.
Aguero has made a huge impact since joining City at the start of the season but their fans may be surprised at the omission from the list of influential playmaker David Silva, already a leading contender for PFA Footballer of the Year.
Liverpool's Suarez has been included after netting eight goals in 23 Barclays Premier League appearances since arriving from Ajax in January.
Player nominees: Eric Abidal (France), Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Karim Benzema (France), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Dani Alves (Brazil), Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Muller (Germany), Nani (Portugal), Neymar (Brazil), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Gerard Pique (Spain), Wayne Rooney (England), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Luis Suarez (Uruguay), David Villa (Spain), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Xavi (Spain).
Coach nominees: Vicente Del Bosque (Spain/Spain national team), Sir Alex Ferguson (Scotland/Manchester United FC), Rudi Garcia (France/Lille OSC), Pep Guardiola (Spain/FC Barcelona), Jurgen Klopp (Germany/Borussia Dortmund), Joachim Low (Germany/Germany national team), Jose Mourinho (Portugal/Real Madrid), Oscar Tabarez (Uruguay/Uruguay national team), Andre Villas-Boas (Portugal/FC Porto, Chelsea, Arsene Wenger (France/Arsenal).