Togo's Emmanuel Adebayor, the winner of the 2008 award, was not in the running.
Ivory Coast captain Drogba picked up the 2006 award after helping Chelsea to a second consecutive Premier League title.
Cameroon skipper Eto'o had won the award in each of the previous three years.
Ghana midfielder Essien, who also captains his country, has never won the award despite making the final shortlist three times.
The winner will be announced in a ceremony in the Ghanaian capital of Accra on March 11.