Messi dropped to fifth place and Barcelona out of the list altogether Tuesday after a 3-2 loss to Real Sociedad, the team's first league defeat of the season.
"A rare defeat for Barcelona meant a window of opportunity for another team to take top place," panelist Mike McGrath of England's Sun newspaper and Wardles news agency said. "Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo have been waiting to pounce."
Ronaldo was masterful in Madrid's 5-0 rout of a powerful Valencia team that is still in the Champions League. He scored twice and was influential in the other goals.
Ronaldo earned 115 points in the vote by the 15-member panel, which awards 10 points for its top player and team in the separate polls. Real Madrid teammate Angel di Maria made his first appearance in the top 10, in sixth position.
Promising Juventus youngster Paul Pogba, dumped by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson for being too troublesome, drew 99 points thanks to his two goals in the 4-0 victory over Udinese.
"He scored two sensational goals and was dominant in midfield," Aurelio Capaldi of RAI sport in Italy said. "Pogba, signed in the offseason on a free transfer from Manchester United, is showing his impressive talent. I think Sir Alex Ferguson is still regretting the way he lost this French teenager."
Will Tidey of the San Francisco-based Bleacher report said Manchester United would have been better with Pogba this season.
"Sir Alex Ferguson will never admit it, but Paul Pogba on the kind of form he showed for Juventus against Udinese could have made a big impact for Manchester United this season," Tidey said.
Manchester City midfielder David Silva showed he has fully rediscovered his form with both goals in a 2-0 victory over Fulham. His play lifted him to third in the survey with 62 points, just ahead of Real Sociedad striker Gonzalo Castro.
"Gonzalo Castro scored two goals against Barcelona for Real Sociedad," Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said. "That deserves some sort of reward."
Messi languished in fifth place despite scoring for the 10th game in a row.
Real Madrid was awarded 112 points by the panel, four more than Serie A leader Juventus, which went five points ahead at the top after the 4-0 victory. Real Sociedad's victory earned it third place despite its ninth position in the Spanish league.
Borussia Dortmund's 5-0 victory over Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga was enough for fourth place, 14 points in front of German rival and league leader Bayern Munich, which beat last-place Greuther Fuerth 2-0.
AP Global Soccer Rankings for the week ending Jan. 20 (previous rankings in parentheses):
1.Cristiano Ronaldo, (8), 115 points.
2.Paul Pogba, 99.
3.David Silva, 62.
4.Gonzalo Castro, 51.
5.Lionel Messi, (1), 42.
6.Angel di Maria, 38.
7.Robin van Persie, (2), 36.
8.Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 33.
9.Giampaolo Pazzini, 32.
10. (tie) Edinson Cavani, 23.
10. (tie).Juan Mata, 23.
1. Real Madrid, 112 points.
2. Juventus, 108.
3.Real Sociedad, 95.
4.Borussia Dortmund, 70.
5.Bayern Munich, 56.
6.Manchester City, (3), 55.
7. Chelsea, (5), 40.
8.Atletico Madrid, (6), 39.
10. Paris Saint-Germain, 32.