But sometimes a player can become bigger and better in your mind’s eye than reality dictates.
And just maybe that’s where things stand with Ben Thompson at the moment.
Pompey caught their first glimpse of the returning prodigal son, as he stepped out on the Fratton turf for the first time since his seismic 2018-19 loan stay.
It’s not overstating the former Millwall man’s impact to suggest his January recall effectively killed the Blues’ promotion hopes, as he left a midfield chasm which wasn’t filled.
But it was soon clear on Saturday Pompey supporters weren’t watching the same man who drove those Championship ambitions forward.
Thompson has spent his time stuck in the stiffs at The Den this season, before a January move to Priestfield finally presented the chase of some first-team football.
That time away from the sharp end of things has appeared to have an impact on the 26-year-old’s frame, with Thompson clearly carrying some excess baggage since we last saw him.
That initial burst of pace which carried him away from opponents was nowhere to be seen as a result.
The reality is it was a virtually anonymous performance from one of the most impressive players to wear royal blue on his return.
It would be harsh to judge the Londoner on one 90-minute performance with the pressure on his side as they fight to stay in the division.
And it’s worth noting his side’s supporters have noted a player who has carried the fight for his side in their survival fight since January.
There’s nothing to say Thompson can’t rediscover that form which blew us all away across 27 appearances a few years ago, but he doesn’t currently look like he’s in the position to do so.
And perhaps that will go some way to dulling the obsession with him one day returning to these parts. For now, at least.